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Lilly taking Spring Training seriously

Spring action still important to Lilly

TUCSON, Ariz. -- It is Spring Training, and the Cactus League stats won't count after April 1, but the games are still important to Ted Lilly.

The left-hander wasn't happy after Tuesday's outing against the Colorado Rockies in which he gave up four runs on nine hits and two walks over five innings.

"I know it's just Spring Training and it's about staying healthy and getting ready for the season, and I agree with that," Lilly said, "but at the same time, you're out there competing and even though it is Spring Training, you still want to win, you still want to be effective and make quality pitches. There were times when I was doing that. That fourth inning, if I could limit that to two runs, I'd feel a little bit better about coming out of the game than I do now."

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That fourth inning was a mess. The Rockies batted around, and scored four runs on four hits and two walks. The lefty needed 32 pitches to get through the inning.

"Starting with the leadoff walk, I got off to a bad start right there," Lilly said of the inning. "I'm really not helping myself when I fall behind the pitcher 2-0, and end up having to throw eight more pitches to him, and I end up walking him. That's one of the first things we're taught, and the most important thing about pitching is throwing strikes and it always goes back to that."

It was the only bad inning, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.

"We have to see if we can get him a little more aggressive," Piniella said. "With men on base, he throws it a little better. What you'd like to see is [for him to ] go at it as hard as you can as long as you can. It was OK -- he didn't pitch poorly. He gave up some base hits in the fourth inning, but in the other innings, he threw the ball fine."

Lilly will follow Carlos Zambrano in the Cubs rotation, and pitch the second game of the season in Cincinnati. He's close to being ready.

"I don't feel real far off," he said. "I feel good now. I feel healthy. I feel I'm throwing the ball OK, with the exception of command where I think it can be, but I'm definitely eager to get out there again, that's for sure."

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How does he fix things?

"It's easy to second guess yourself when things don't go well," Lilly said. "You can think of numerous things you could've done or should've done differently."

He does know he needs to be more efficient with his pitches.

"It's a slow game watching a guy throw 90 pitches in five innings," he said. "That's got to be a slow game."

Ryan Dempster also pitched one inning, his first in a week, and showed no ill effects from the spasms he felt in his shoulder blades. Angel Guzman looked the sharpest. He pitched the ninth, and retired the side in order and efficiently.

"Truthfully, to me, the kid has done enough to make the team," Piniella said of Guzman. "The only thing I can tell you is I just don't know about the numbers. I don't know how things will work out in the end. I've been impressed with him, I really have. He has a nice arm, he's worked hard, and he's pitched well."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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