LOS ANGELES — Since making his offseason home on a ranch in Edna Valley, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly has been spotted at places like the local gym, San Luis Obispo County golf courses and the rec league softball diamond.
The Dodgers are hoping their left-handed starter will start making appearances in another small town sometime soon.
On the disabled list since May 24 with left shoulder inflammation, Lilly is slowly and steadily getting closer to a return to the Los Angeles starting pitching rotation, an action that will likely be preceded by a rehab stint with one of the Dodgers’ small-market minor league affiliates.
In the midst of a three-game series against Arroyo Grande resident and Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura last weekend, Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly seemed encouraged by Lilly’s progression — though Lilly still had yet to throw overhand.
“He does feel better,” Mattingly said. “The first few times I’d ask him how he was doing, he didn’t sound very good. The last couple times just saying ‘Hey, how’re you feeling, Teddy?’ and you get more of an optimistic feeling. So you get the feel like he’s improving.”
In the second of a three-year, $33 million deal that runs through the 2013 season, Lilly opened the season on the disabled list with a neck injury. After a one-game rehab start with Class A Rancho Cucamonga in April, Lilly rejoined the Dodgers to go 5-1 with a 3.14 ERA and 31 strikeout in 482⁄3 innings over eight starts before the shoulder injury.
Though he was unavailable to meet the media during the White Sox series, Lilly has been with the Dodgers in Los Angeles since his injury, working on conditioning, shagging fly balls at batting practice and making underhand tosses to teammates.
A Dodgers representative said Lilly had an appointment with a physician last Sunday, and the news must have been positive. According to an MLB.com report, Lilly was scheduled to possibly resume throwing this weekend.
If so, it’s still too early to determine a date for his full return, though he was scheduled to be with the team for its series in Anaheim this weekend.
“We don’t have a timetable,” Mattingly said. “It’s been one of those things where in the past when he’s had this type of thing going on, he’s come back too early. They feel like he’s come back before he was pain free. They want to get him pain free before they start the throwing, and we’re not there yet.”
A graduate of Yosemite High in Oakhurst who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1996 out of Fresno City College, Lilly now spends his offseasons in San Luis Obispo, where his wife Natasha is a professor in Cal Poly’s animal science department.
He made his Major League debut with the Montreal Expos in 1998 and has since played for the New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago Cubs before the Cubs traded him to Los Angeles in 2010.
Lilly is one of only three active left-handers with 10 or more wins in each of the past eight years. Mark Buehrle and CC Sabathia are the others. But that streak is in jeopardy the longer he remains out.