Lilly could return April 19 vs. Mets

Chicago Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly could make his first appearance with the major-league team as early as April 19 when the Cubs travel to New York to face the Mets. On Monday morning manager Lou Piniella mapped out a plan that will begin with Lilly pitching on Tuesday in a minor-league game and then again April 4 in Mesa as well as April 9 and 14 at one of the Cubs' minor-league affiliates.

Piniella didn't get specific, but Single-A Daytona is a possibility due to the warm weather environment.

According to Piniella, Lilly will build up to 60 pitches on April 4, 75 pitches on April 9 and then 90 pitches on April 14. At that point the Cubs could target Lilly's next start in New York during a series that runs April 19-22. Although neither Piniella or the Cubs said it, it's possible Lilly will back off from his pitch count, throw three or four innings again in the minor leagues and then target April 23 indoors at Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Lilly is the team leader in wins with 44 over the past three seasons. His four-year, $40 million contract ends after 2010. He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Nov. 3, 2009.