Cubs

Lilly, Dempster bonded by more than baseball

452369.jpg

Lilly, Dempster bonded by more than baseball

Friday, April 22, 2011
Posted: 4:50 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III slid headfirst into second, trying to steal a base in the third inning of a Class-A game.

This was April 2010, less than six months after shoulder surgery, and Lilly got his Peoria Chiefs uniform dirty during a rehab start.

The Cubs had only invested 40 million in Lillys left arm. Why risk it?

For Lilly, the question was even more ridiculous. It didnt matter if it was sandlot or Nintendo or the majors. If the object of the game is to score more runs than the other team, then he will do whatever it takes. Thats what he was taught as a kid, how he was raised in a military family.

It will be the same way on Saturday, when Lilly starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers opposite Ryan Dempster. But as Lilly talked about his close friend in the visiting dugout at Wrigley Field, a tough guy looked like he was trying to hold back tears.

I cant sit here and tell you how much respect I have for him as a person first and foremost, Lilly said Friday. What I was able to learn from being around him the way that he treated people, the way that he loved this opportunity to pitch in the major leagues and the way that he would deal with adversity, off the field and on the field

Yeah, wow, without getting emotional I dont know how anyone could have created someone that was as unselfish as Ryan.

Dempster and Lilly will probably go out dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. Together they drilled a sense of professionalism into the Cubs pitching staff, never pointing fingers or complaining about run support.

I want to see which one drills the other one first, Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson joked. Im sure theyll be going back and forth yelling at each other.

But the two pitchers are bonded by more than baseball. Dempster was reminded of that on Friday morning as his foundation hosted a large group of medical staffers and families dealing with DiGeorge syndrome, or 22q, the genetic disorder that afflicts his two-year-old daughter.

Dempster invited them to Wrigley Field so they would know that theyre not alone. Thats what Lilly whos worked extensively with those same charities did for Dempster.

He was a big help to me going through everything when Riley was born, Dempster said. You come to work and he broadened his shoulders to help take some of the pressure off me and that relieved a lot of the stress.

Hes contributed financially, emotionallyits been overwhelming. Hes a true, true friend of mine and it shows all the time.

Dempster one of the most accessible players on the team politely declined to talk to reporters when the Cubs traded Lilly at last seasons deadline for cash, utility infielder Blake DeWitt and two pitching prospects.

It bothered Dempster but worked out for Lilly, who signed a three-year, 33 million extension with the Dodgers.

Lilly was central to Tribune Co.s huge free-agent spending spree in the winter of 2006. He helped the Cubs win two division titles and gave them 47 wins, 113 starts and a 3.70 ERA in three-plus seasons.

I had built up these dreams and aspirations of trying to be a member of the Cubs team that won the World Series, Lilly said. We fell short of that, so theres a gap in the experience in that way. I thought that was kind of one of the responsibilities that (Alfonso) Soriano and myself had coming over here.

(But) I do believe that we pushed ourselves. We continued to look for ways to get better. We werent able to get it done, so I guess its something we have to live with. But that would have been the ultimate.

Now 35, Lilly looks back on the friendships he made in Chicago. He thought about Ron Santo and all the positive energy the late broadcaster always brought to the ballpark. This became a second home.

On a stage like this, Lilly cant wait to compete against Dempster again.

The fondest memories of my life are living here in this city, Lilly said.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

As if things weren’t already going well enough for the Cubs during this strange, short season of baseball in a pandemic, now the baseball gods are dropping gifts into their laps.

The Cardinals’ lengthy shutdown because of a coronavirus outbreak has the Cubs’ arch rivals restarting their season Saturday in Chicago with a patched-up roster and eight games over the next five days, including five games against the Cubs.

And although that means the relative hardship of two doubleheaders for the Cubs in three days, all five of those games Monday through Wednesday are against a decimated Cards roster that won’t have the front end of its rotation for any of the games.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

They catch the Cardinals at their weakest point of the early season a week after catching an otherwise formidable Cleveland team at a moment of clubhouse crisis involving protocol perps Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.

That one resulted in a two-game sweep by a combined score of 14-3.

This one already has resulted in all 10 games against the Cardinals now being scheduled for Wrigley Field.

Combine that with the three road games against the White Sox next month, and it means that the team with baseball’s best record on the field, the perfect record in player COVID-19 testing and no significant injuries to key players so far will play 60 percent of its games within its Chicago bubble if the Cubs and MLB pull off the full 60-game season.

If the Cubs were positioned any better to make the playoffs, they’d already be there.

“You can look at it that way if you want,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’re just doing our thing.”

No other way to look at it from here. Have you seen the rest of the schedule?

The Cubs have 43 games left, including 29 within a National League Central Division that doesn’t include another .500 team three weeks into a nine-week season. Nine more games are against the Tigers and White Sox.

The best team on the schedule is the Twins, and all three of those games are at home and not until the second-to-last weekend of the season.

With all due respect to Ross and his fear of “bad juju,” the Cubs can’t lose.

“It’s still early on,” the manager said.

Nothing’s early in a 60-game season. And the Cubs already have matched the hot starts of their 2016 and 1908 World Series champions.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season,” Ross said.

The Cubs did have to scratch Tyler Chatwood from his scheduled start Friday night because of back tightness. And Kris Bryant has missed the last two games because of a sore finger after rolling his wrist trying to make a diving catch in left field in Cleveland Wednesday.

But Alec Mills looked good in short-notice replacement duty Friday until a rough four-pitch (and three-run) sequence in the sixth. And Chatwood might be ready for one of Monday’s games — or possibly one of Wednesday’s.

“Things falling in our favor?” Ross said. “We’re playing good baseball, and that should be the focus for me and not the other stuff.”

Granted, they still have to play the games. Granted, Bryant wasn’t available off the bench with the bases loaded in the eighth Friday, and Josh Phegley struck out instead.

And, yes, they actually lost a game to the Brewers Friday night.

But if you still don’t believe the baseball gods are stirring the Cubs’ pot so far this season, you weren’t paying attention in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia swinging at a 98-mph fastball to start the scoreless inning and Manny Piña swinging at a 96-mph fastball to end it.

What closer problem? Bring on the Cardinals, right?

These guys might not lose another game.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE CUBS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.

Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

The Cubs plan to start swingman Colin Rea on Saturday against the Brewers, manager David Ross said after Friday's game.

Alec Mills was originally slated to pitch Saturday but was bumped up to Friday because Tyler Chatwood was scratched with mid-back tightness. The Cubs will evaluate Chatwood to see if he's an option to pitch on Monday, when they're scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Rea, 30, has made two appearances this season, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out three in three innings. He was named the 2019 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, sporting a 3.95 ERA in 26 starts.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Cubs news and analysis.

Rea's last big league start was July 30, 2016 with the Marlins. He allowed one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four with no walks.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE CUBS TALK PODCAST FOR FREE.