Lilly threw five scoreless innings Wednesday night in a rehab start at Class A Peoria, giving up two hits and one walk. If he passes all the tests, the left-hander, who has been on the disabled list since July 21 because of inflammation in his shoulder, will start Monday against the San Diego Padres.
"From a health standpoint, I feel really good and I think it was definitely the right decision for me to go down there and pitch in a real game where there is some adrenaline," Lilly said Thursday. "It doesn't matter even if it's Single-A, when runners get on base and it's a one-run game, I still don't want to let those runners score. You tend to ask for a little more and put in a little more effort to making pitches [than] had I been throwing an extra bullpen session."
The Cubs have been trying to keep pace in the National League Central without two key components in their rotation in Lilly and Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano, on the disabled list since Aug. 2 because of back spasms, is not expected to need more than the 15 days before he returns.
"I'll tell you this, I don't think just because Carlos and I get back in the rotation, St. Louis is going to lay down and say, 'Now that they're back, we're in trouble,'" Lilly said. "We're going to have to go out there and win."
It doesn't make a difference if this is Game No. 1 or Game No. 113.
"I felt winning the first game and the second game and the 17th game were all important," Lilly said. "Obviously, the later we get into the season, the more important the games become. I hope we didn't go through the motions in any of the games previously. I like to think we show up prepared to play every day."
The Peoria Chiefs made a good impression on Lilly, including catcher Michael Brenly, son of Cubs television analyst Bob Brenly.
"I don't remember, when I was 20, 21 years old, that the players were as good as the ones on that club and the talent on that team," the left-hander said. "There's a lot of talent there, including Michael. He's a pretty polished young player and obviously knows the game well and had a really good approach, and defensively he's not far off."
So, Lilly's ready to go Monday?
"I feel I'm ready," Lilly said. "I just need to go out there and get it done."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.