Ted Lilly knew he couldn’t pitch any more but wanted to stay in the game, and on Tuesday, was named to a job in the Cubs’ front office. Lilly, 38, officially is a special assistant to Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, and he will do a variety of tasks, such as helping with scouting and developing the young players. Epstein, Hoyer and Lilly discussed the job at the Cubs Convention in January.
“His reputation with the Cubs is sterling, which is fantastic, and not only as a person but as a competitor,” Hoyer said. “I really liked what he had to say. A lot of guys want to get back in and don’t want to work that much, and he made it clear he wants to work and wants to get involved in scouting.
“I think we’ll use him in a variety of ways,” Hoyer said. “He feels he has a pretty eye and likes to try to evaluate but also was really humble and knows he has to learn how to do it. He was excited to get back involved and I think we’ll feel out how to use him.”
Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry hired Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux in a similar role in 2010. Hoyer said Lilly will watch the Minor League pitchers, visit the Cubs’ affiliates, and scout some amateur players.
“It was pretty clear after a few conversations that he had something to add,” Hoyer said of Lilly. “I like the fact that to finish it off, he was with a Cubs team that won 97 games and they had success, and as we try to figure out how to build a winner in Chicago, he was part of it.”
Lilly pitched for 15 seasons with the Expos, Yankees, Athletics, Blue Jays, Cubs and Dodgers. He was in Chicago from 2007-10, helping the team win back to back National League Central titles in 2007-08.
“I wanted to stay in the game,” Lilly said. “I would love to keep playing, too, but at this point, I’m sure that I’m retired from being on the field. I want to be around the game and I feel like I have something to offer. This is an organization that I’d prefer to be with, so it worked out.”
Lilly was limited to 13 starts the last two seasons with the Dodgers because of injuries. He started thinking about doing more than pitching in that time.
“The last couple years, when I had a lot of free time to think, I did start thinking about when my career was over,” Lilly said. “I wanted to keep playing but I definitely started thinking about this [type of work] at the end.”
Lilly has two young children, a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, and another child due in September, which makes a job as a pitching coach tough because of the time commitment needed. He is committed to the Cubs.
“The experiences I had the first couple years here winning were incredible in the sense that we put together a team that was expected to win,” Lilly said. “We didn’t accomplish the ultimate goal of winning a World Series but it was such a great experience. We had so many professionals in the clubhouse and guys who went about it the right way. I think that’s why I’ll always refer to those two years in Chicago as the best years I’ve had as a player.”
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs play host to the Athletics at Cubs Park in Mesa today with the game scheduled to start at 1:05 p.m. MT. You can listen to Len Kasper and Mick Gillispie on a webcast on Cubs.com. Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs’ Minor League pitcher of the year last year, gets the start. Emilio Bonifacio starts at shortstop in Day 2 without Starlin Castro, sidelined with a mild strain of his right hamstring. Here’s the lineup:
Rick Renteria picked up his first win Monday with the Cubs as they beat the Brewers, 4-2. Javier Baez hit a solo homer, his first this spring, and Luis Valbuena added a RBI double. Minor Leaguer Walter Ibarra, added to the travel roster, delivered the game-winning two-run single in the seventh. The Cubs play host to the Athletics on Tuesday at Cubs Park.
The Cubs have agreed to 2014 contract terms with all 19 players on their 40-man roster with zero-to-three years of Major League service. The list includes catchers Welington Castillo; pitchers Jake Arrieta, Dallas Beeler, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino, Zac Rosscup and Chris Rusin; infielders Arismendy Alcantara, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Matt Szczur and Josh Vitters.
– Carrie Muskat
Monday’s game between the Cubs and Brewers will be the first to use Major League Baseball’s expanded instant-replay review system, which allows managers the right to challenge at least one call. The game, which is being played in Maryvale, can be seen on MLB.TV.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria won’t have a flag in his pocket to throw on the field if he wants to challenge a call.
“I think the protocol will be if you want to challenge, you have to go out and talk to the umpire and either invoke it or he may ask me to invoke it depending on how long you stand out there conversing with him,” Renteria said.
Renteria said the umpires will try to resolve the disagreement first.
“I would imagine that if my gut is telling me immediately that I saw it completely different [he'll challenge] — but you don’t want to waste it if you don’t have to,” Renteria said. “There’s going to be some availability as it’s set up to get the information that tells you if [the call] is good or not.”
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro will be sidelined seven to 10 days because of a mild right hamstring strain that should not hinder the shortstop from being ready for the regular season, Cubs manager Rick Renteria said Monday.
“From what we gathered, it’s similar to what happened to him last year at this time,” Renteria said of Castro’s injury, suffered in the first inning Sunday when he tried to steal second. “It’s seven to 10 days and we’re just being cautious with him. It shouldn’t set him back for the regular season.”
Castro was sidelined for two weeks last spring with a sore left hamstring. After Sunday’s game, he said the injury suffered on Sunday was “not too bad like last year” and that the team removed him as a precautionary measure. A year ago, Castro could barely walk after he was hurt.
“This doesn’t seem to be anything like last year to the degree that it was,” Renteria said. “He’s walking around pretty good now.”
The Cubs will give Emilio Bonifacio and Darwin Barney more starts at shortstop while Castro heals and also look at top prospect Javier Baez. They also have infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Jeudy Valdez in camp.
“What it allows us to do is see other guys at that position and recognize if Barney can go over there and [Bonifacio],” Renteria said. “It’ll give guys playing time.”
Castro spent more time this offseason on conditioning and reported to camp in good shape. The Cubs sent strength coach Tim Buss to the Dominican Republic for three weeks to work with the shortstop, who also spent four weeks at a training facility in Bradenton, Fla. Castro is coming off a season in which he batted a career-low .245.
– Carrie Muskat
Jason Hammel will get things started on Monday for the Cubs, pitching a “B” game at Cubs Park against the Giants, starting at 10 a.m. MT. The game is open to the public, but does not count in Cactus League statistics. Here’s the lineup:
The Cubs also will play the Brewers on Monday at Maryvale in a regularly scheduled Cactus League game. Eric Jokisch is scheduled to start that game.
– Carrie Muskat
* Mike Moustakas belted two home runs to power the Royals to a 5-3 Cactus League victory over the Cubs on Sunday in front of a Cactus League single-game record crowd of 14,680 at Cubs Park. The old attendance mark was set on Thursday at the new spring stadium’s opener against the Diamondbacks when 14,486 filled the park.
Royals starter Wade Davis, who is a second cousin of former Cubs catcher Jody Davis, gave up one hit over two innings in his first Cactus League start. Davis and Yordano Ventura, who followed Davis on Sunday and faced the minimum over two innings, are both candidates for a spot in the Royals’ rotation.
Edwin Jackson struck out three and did not walk a batter over two innings in his first Cactus League start. Jackson gave up three hits, including a leadoff home run in the Royals second to Moustakas, who launched a 2-2 pitch to right. Moustakas then connected off Carlos Villanueva with one on and two outs in the third to open a 3-0 lead.
The Cubs tallied with two outs in the fifth on Darwin Barney’s RBI double, driving in Donnie Murphy, who had singled. Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo hit back to back doubles in the sixth, and Rizzo then scored on Justin Ruggiano’s single to close to 5-3. With the loss, the Cubs and Renteria are now 0-3.
* On deck: The Cubs will play a doubleheader of sorts on Monday. Jason Hammel, a free agent who signed in the offseason, will start a “B” game at 10 a.m. MT at Cubs Park against the Giants, while lefty Eric Jokisch will start the Cactus League game in Phoenix against the Brewers. Mike Olt, a highly touted third baseman who the Cubs acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last July, will start at first base in the “B” game. He has been limited to designated hitter duties because of a sore right shoulder. The game against the Brewers will be broadcast on WGN Radio with Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer.
Last spring, Starlin Castro missed two weeks because of a sore left hamstring and amped up his offseason workouts to report in better shape. But on Sunday, in his second spring at-bat, the Cubs shortstop had to leave the game because of a mild right hamstring strain. Castro was hit by a pitch with one out in the first by the Royals’ Wade Davis, and then thrown out trying to steal second. He walked gingerly off the field and was lifted defensively.
“It’s not too bad like last year,” Castro said. “We don’t want to take a chance. It’s early right now. You take a couple days to get better.”
Last year, Castro was sidelined from Feb. 27-March 13. He said the pain on Sunday wasn’t as severe.
“Last year, I couldn’t walk [after he was hurt] and now I can walk normal,” Castro said. “[Athletic trainer PJ Mainville] stretched it out and I feel better.
“I don’t want to rush,” he said. “I want to take time to get better. I think I’ll be better.”
Castro was in better shape this spring. The Cubs sent strength and conditioning coach Tim Buss to the Dominican Republic for three weeks and Castro trained for another four weeks at a complex in Brandenton, Fla.
“A little bit [frustrating],” Castro said. “I feel so good when I work, I’m working hard every day. I feel 100 percent every day and this thing happens now.”
Javier Baez took over at shortstop on Sunday, and went 2-for-3. Castro and the Cubs’ top prospect chatted as Baez was leaving the facility.
“He’s not down,” Baez said of Castro. “He’s taking it easy. It’s only Spring Training. He wants to take care of his body.”
– Carrie Muskat
Starlin Castro had to leave Sunday’s game after the first inning with a mild right hamstring strain. Castro was hit by a pitch with one out in the first, and then thrown out trying to steal second. He walked gingerly off the field. His status is day to day.
– Carrie Muskat