© 2005 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
03/21/05 3:55 PM ET
Notes: Lilly to miss first turn in rotation
Team doesn't want to rush left-hander back to action
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The decision was made and the opinion noted. Ted Lilly's last-minute appeal was denied on Monday when the Blue Jays announced their starting rotation for the first six games of the regular season. Lilly, battling back from shoulder tendinitis, will be on the disabled list when the regular season begins. If all goes according to plan, he'll be activated to start the sixth game of the season. That means the earliest Lilly will debut is April 10, a full five days after he wanted to pitch. "It makes perfect sense not to rush him, because he's got the whole year ahead of him," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "I know he wants to go that second day in Tampa Bay, but we decided this was better for him." The left-hander knew about the move on Monday morning, but he spent another 20 minutes discussing alternatives. When he emerged from the manager's office, he told the media he understood the decision and was prepared to play it out. "I'm walking out of there believing that what we're doing is best for everyone," said Lilly. "I can see where they're coming from and I think they can understand where I'm coming from. ...Unfortunately, if I look at it, I'm the one who came to Spring Training at less than 100 percent in the first place. "I definitely believe that if I showed up here without anything going on, I'd be ready to pitch. I put myself in this predicament to begin with." Last year, Lilly spent most of Spring Training battling the effects of a sprained wrist. This year, he came to Dunedin with a sore shoulder and wasn't able to throw from the mound until last week. He still hasn't faced live batters, and he won't do that until Wednesday, when he pitches in a simulated game. After that, the Jays will let Lilly pitch in two minor league spring games, incrementally building up his pitch count. When the season starts, Lilly will stay in Dunedin to throw a game in extended Spring Training. Finally, barring any setbacks, he'll start the finale of Toronto's first home series, slotted between Roy Halladay and Gustavo Chacin. "They've been doing this a long time -- longer than I have," Lilly said. "In the big picture, this is probably the best thing, even though it's difficult. In the back of my mind, I think I'm capable of going out there on [April] 5th -- but that might not be the best thing." Rotation: Halladay is set to start on Opening Day against Tampa Bay, but the Jays threw a couple changeups into the mix after him. Chacin will start the second game, and he will be followed by Josh Towers. That leaves Dave Bush for the home opener in Toronto, followed by Halladay and Lilly.
"I'm looking forward to the atmosphere, the crowd and the team," said Bush. "They wouldn't put me there if they didn't think I can handle it. All the outside factors are the things I look forward to, but once the game starts, I really won't pay attention to it. One of the things I learned last year was to block all that out -- not let it affect me."
An off day in between the two series allows Toronto to work Halladay back into the mix. Youth and inexperience aside, Gibbons said Bush was the most prepared to start the first game at Rogers Centre.
"It's still another game, but there's something extra about a home opener. Not to minimize the other two games, but it's a nice honor for Bush," Gibbons said. "Bush is a complete pitcher, and he does all the things that winning pitchers do. And he's a survivor, even without his best stuff.
"There's more to being a great pitcher than just the stuff you have. ... He hasn't proved it yet, but we think he's got that little extra something that will make him really good."
Et cetera: Halladay's scheduled start on Monday was mostly washed away by rain. The right-hander tossed one inning, striking out two batters and getting a groundout before the downpour began in earnest. Toronto switched to Matt Whiteside when the 55-minute delay ended.
Halladay went to the bullpen and threw three simulated innings, adding another 50 pitches to his day. Toronto's ace estimated that he threw a total of 75 pitches.
The rain affected one other player. Corey Koskie was slated to start as Toronto's designated hitter. It would have been his first big league game since suffering a sore groin on March 10. Koskie will get a day off on Tuesday and likely won't make the team's Wednesday bus trip to Fort Myers. Gibbons expects Koskie to start at third base on Thursday.
Quotable: "He really wanted to pitch that second game, but he got overruled. We just told him, 'Don't get hurt next year. You'll pitch the second game.'" -- Gibbons, describing the basic elements of his conversation with Lilly
Coming up: The Blue Jays get an off day on Tuesday, followed by a road trip to Fort Myers on Wednesday. Bush is scheduled to start that game, and Minnesota will likely counter with Kyle Lohse.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.