Cubs welcome Lilly to Chicago
Lefty introduced at Wrigley Field upon completion of contract
CHICAGO -- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry has redefined playing with pain, and that's an attitude the rest of the team can adopt, pitcher Ted Lilly said.
Hendry completed negotiations with the free agent left-hander on Dec. 6 while on the phone at an Orlando, Fla., hospital before undergoing an angioplasty. Lilly didn't know where Hendry was at the time. The pitcher was formally introduced to the Chicago media on Friday after signing a four-year, $40 million deal with the Cubs. Lilly found out details of Hendry's whereabouts the day after the procedure.
"It showed he wanted to make sure I was here, no matter what state he was in," Lilly said on Friday about his new GM's non-stop approach. "It shows the passion he has for his job. I think that's something that could carry over into the team. You're not feeing great, but you just keep going."
Hendry had finally been convinced by his staff and Cubs manager Lou Piniella to get checked out because he was feeling some discomfort during the Winter Meetings in Orlando.
"There was no reason to tell [Lilly] where I was," said Hendry, who was on the phone with his staff constantly from the hospital. "I was a little worried, because I was feeling uncomfortable and had some discomfort in my chest for a couple days and in my own stupidity didn't go the day before. It was a rough day or two, but I'm amazed at how much better I feel."
Hendry was back at work in Chicago on Monday, and he finalized the details for Lilly, who was 15-13 with a 4.31 ERA in 32 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays last season. The Cubs rotation now consists of Lilly, Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill, and other candidates include Sean Marshall, Wade Miller and Mark Prior. The team is believed to be close to finalizing a deal with free agent right-hander Jason Marquis as well.
All the work that Hendry has done this offseason, including signing Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract, isn't what caused his heart problems.
"I wasn't stressed over the Winter Meetings or the job," Hendry said. "Part of it is genetic and the other part is, it was going to happen sooner or later. I needed a jolt like this."
Hendry is now watching his weight, stepping up his exercise routine and taking medication.
"I guess it was a scare of a lifetime that I'm fortunate it happened when it did and was caught when we did," he said.
Lilly admitted that the Cubs weren't on his radar when he began thinking about where he would pitch next.
"It wasn't one of the teams who I expected would come after me," Lilly said. "It certainly worked out very well. I guess playing in the American League for so long, those were more of the teams I was thinking of. This worked out, and I would have loved to have played in the National League my whole career. Six years later, I get a chance."
Can he hit?
"I like to hit," said Lilly, who did play briefly in the NL in 1999 with Montreal. "I think if they throw it in the same spot consistently, I'll do OK."
Lilly would like to cut down on his walks -- he walked 81 and struck out 160 over 181 2/3 innings last season -- and he says that the ultimate goal is to win more and lose less. That's pretty simple.
"I'm not satisfied with what I've accomplished," Lilly said. "I've had some expectations that I haven't met in my career, and I'm going to have a chance to do that from a personal standpoint, but more important and more special is that I'm going to be part of an organization that is going in the direction of winning."
Wrigley Field would not seem like a good fit for Lilly, who is a fly-ball pitcher. However, the wind did blow in more than out last season, and Lilly figures that with Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and others, the Cubs have a pretty good chance of taking advantage of the elements as well.
"Wrigley excites me," Lilly said. "The opposing pitcher is going to give up runs here -- I'm pretty sure of it, especially having to go through this lineup. If I give up less runs than the other guy does, we win the game."
Lilly will wear No. 30. He's worn No. 31 in his career, but he was told that number is going to be retired by the Cubs. There was no official word on Friday, but both Greg Maddux and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins are notables who wore No. 31.
With the addition of Lilly and the signing on Friday of free agent first baseman and outfielder Daryle Ward, the Cubs are almost done with their offseason restructuring. Hendry was expected to name an assistant general manager before the end of the year to help ease his work load. He also might be able to take some time off.
"We're done looking for pitching," Hendry said. "I think we're deep now. We've got guys who can give us innings. I like the depth of our 'pen. We might have the ability to send a lot of good, young people back into the system and allow them to develop properly instead of forcing them up like we had to last year."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.