Ted Lilly accomplished something in a simulated game yesterday afternoon that he hadn't been able to accomplish in his past two real starts.
Yesterday, at the Metrodome, the Toronto Blue Jays' left-hander pitched three innings and 65 pitches in a session made necessary by two consecutive starts of 12/3 innings each.
When Lilly will be given the chance to start again in a real game is undecided. It has been decided that he will not make his scheduled start, which would have been on Friday now that Roy Halladay has been moved from Friday to Saturday.
Lilly will be given another simulated game on Friday, and either right-hander Pete Walker or left-hander Scott Downs will start for the Blue Jays that night against the Washington Nationals at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Lilly is 1-4 and has a 10.41 earned-run average, so you would think he would be receptive to suggestions. He is a 35-38 career pitcher, so, at 29, he isn't exactly building on past brilliance. As a pitcher, his success has been moderate, and he can be thankful that he is a left-hander, which is always in demand in baseball.
One thing pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has suggested to Lilly is that he try throwing from nearer the middle of the pitching rubber instead of from the third-base side of the rubber, as he customarily does.
But by the third simulated inning yesterday, Lilly was back pitching from the third-base side of the rubber. He felt more comfortable that way.
Lilly termed his outing as "okay. It was not great." It wasn't good enough to convince manager John Gibbons to put him back into the rotation right away.
Lilly said he wants to get back to where he was last season, when he was 12-10 with the Blue Jays and said he was not thinking so much about his pitching mechanics.
You watch Lilly pitch these days and wonder whether he is thinking and if he is what it is.
"We're trying everything," Arnsberg said, "and I'm trying to give him something to feed off and to get his mindset different."
Pitching from the middle of the rubber would give him a different angle toward the hitters, but Arnsberg said, "It's tough to sell somebody on something that they seem adamantly against."
Asked why someone who is pitching as poorly as Lilly wouldn't be open to suggestion, Arnsberg said: "I haven't got an answer for that. I would think you might try a little bit of anything and everything, and that's kind of what we're trying to do."
Lilly also was 12-10 with the Oakland Athletics in 2003 before he was traded to the Blue Jays during that off-season.
But his earned-run average that year was 4.34 and last year it was 4.06. So we're not talking about a Cy Young candidate here, and that makes Lilly's approach all the more puzzling.
"It's been a very tough sell [pitching from the middle of the rubber]" Arnsberg said. "If this was a guy without somewhat mild success, it would probably be easier. . . . I think he takes a lot of my ideas and really, really likes them. This is one he doesn't feel is really going to make a difference."
Whatever spot on the rubber that Lilly decides to use won't mean much if he keeps falling behind in the count so much. In his start against the Indians last Friday, 35 of his 67 pitches were balls.