Lilly Looking to Get Back on Track

Ted Lilly turned in the only clunker among the three performances by Cubs starting pitchers in the three-game series at Houston.

Lilly, the No 3 starter, gave up eight hits and five runs in five innings of the Cubs' 11-6 victory Wednesday. The Cubs said they knew Lilly was behind the other pitchers because of his time with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, but manager Lou Piniella said that Lilly "has to get better."

The 33-year-old Lilly went 12 days between his final WBC appearance and his return start with the Cubs in spring training. He then had a rough exhibition outing April 3 at Yankee Stadium.

Lilly is the type of pitcher who needs all three of his main pitches -- fastball, curveball and changeup -- working in sync. That's not the case yet.

History also says Lilly can be a slow starter. Last April, he was 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA in April, but he rebounded to go 4-0 in May on his way to a 17-win season. With the Cubs skipping No. 5 starter Sean Marshall the first time through the rotation, Lilly figures to work on his regular turns, and that could help to right him.

OPENING NIGHT IN MINOR LEAGUES

ROUND ROCK 10, IOWA 4 (CLASS AAA)

At Round Rock, Texas, RHP Mitch Atkins (0-1) yielded seven runs in five innings en route to the loss. RHP Jeff Samardzija saw two innings of work and allowed three runs and three hits. CF Sam Fuld paced the Iowa (0-1) offense with three hits atop the order. The Cubs were out-hit, 11-6.

JACKSONVILLE 7, TENNESSEE 4 (CLASS AA)

At Jacksonville, Fla., the Smokies (0-1) were held to just five hits in a loss. Tennessee used five pitchers with LHP James Russell (0-1) starting and taking the loss. He allowed four runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. 2B Tony Thomas, 3B Jonathan Mota, RF Richie Robnett, CF Brandon Guyer and Blake Lalli recorded a hit for Tennessee.

BREVARD COUNTY 5, DAYTONA 4 (CLASS HIGH-A)

At Viera, Fla., Daytona out-hit Brevard County, 10-4, but fell in the season opener. 2B Marwin Gonzalez and SS Starlin Castro led the Cubs (0-1) with three hits apiece. DH Tyler Colvin was 2-for-3. Daytona used four pitchers in the loss. LHP James Leverton started and tossed four innings, allowing two runs and one hit. RHP Steve Vento (0-1) took the loss, allowing two runs in 1 1/3 innings.

PEORIA 4, KANE COUNTY 1 (CLASS-A)

At Peoria, the Chiefs (1-0) won their season opener despite being out-hit, 9-5. RHP Aaron Shafer (1-0) picked up the win in five innings, allowing one run and six hits. Three Chiefs relievers – Jeff Beliveau, Kevin Kreier and Ryan Buchter – combined for four shutout innings. SS Ryan Flaherty paced the Chiefs' offense with two hits, including a double and a triple.

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