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Thursday, March 3, 2011
Ted Lilly beats flu to make start

Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ted Lilly made a low-key spring training debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, pitching two hitless innings in a minor league game after being pushed back by flu earlier this week.

Lilly threw 27 pitches -- mostly fastballs, changeups and a few sinkers to left-handed hitters -- against the Chicago White Sox. He struck out one in front of a small bunch of fans on Chicago's side of Camelback Ranch.

The left-hander had been scheduled to make his first start on Wednesday against Kansas City, but he was still feeling the effects of the flu bug that has spread through the Dodgers' clubhouse. Earlier in the week, Lilly spent 16 to 18 hours one day in bed.

He was feeling good enough to start for a Dodgers' squad comprised entirely of minor leaguers, most of whose names Lilly didn't even know.

"I was definitely excited to pitch in a game again, so I had some adrenaline taking over from any of the lingering effects," he said. "I enjoy being out there and being with my teammates. I miss that in the offseason."

Lilly bypassed the chance to test the free agent market in the offseason, and instead signed a three-year, $33 million deal in October to return to the Dodgers, with whom he won his first five starts in August.

He received the lowest run support in the major leagues with 2.88 runs per game.

He was 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 12 starts for Los Angeles last season, after he and Ryan Theriot went from the Cubs to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt and two other players. Overall, Lilly was 10-12 with a 3.62 ERA in 30 combined starts for both teams.

Lilly only went two innings Thursday to keep himself on track for his next scheduled start on Monday in a road game against Colorado.

"My command wasn't especially great," he said. "The velocity was OK. I don't expect it to be where I'd like it to be just yet. I'd like to be able to get there without a ton of strain on my arm."

Lilly turned 35 in January and has made taking care of himself a priority because he envisions pitching into his 40s like Jamie Moyer, who had offseason Tommy John surgery and plans to attempt a comeback in 2012 when he'll be 49.

"I got to strengthen my immune system," Lilly said. "Somehow I've been sick the last few spring trainings. Fortunately, this one was brief."

Lilly's return gives the Dodgers five established starting pitchers, along with left-hander Clayton Kershaw, and right-handers Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland, who returns to the Dodgers after spending last season with San Diego.

It's the first time the team has had five set starters since general manager Ned Colletti took over six years ago.