Lilly happy with change

BOB ELLIOTT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

MESA, Ariz. -- Ted Lilly basically looks the same.

He's wearing an untucked shirt over a T-shirt, which hangs over his blue jeans. And he's carrying his customary bottle of water to fidget with as he speaks.

Except now, the former Blue Jays lefty, is at Fitch Park in suburban Phoenix, home of the Chicago Cubs. And he sounded a little like Tony Bennett yesterday.

"I wanted a change of scene, I love the National League and I love Chicago," Lilly said.

These are different words from the previous time we spoke to an ex-Jay in Mesa. In 1991, new Cub George Bell predicted the Jays would not win as many games as the Maple Leafs. Then he got nasty.

Lilly signed a four-year, $40-million US deal with the Cubs during the winter meetings in Orlando, ignoring the same offer from the Jays. He phoned the cell of Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry to confirm the deal. Little did Lilly know Hendry was hooked up to an EKG machine in a clinic.

"I wasn't feeling well the day before and our doctor talked me into going for tests," Hendry said. "It's not the heroic act people make it out to be ... me hooked up to a machine holding onto a cell. It sort of shows I'm a whacko. I didn't know the severity until two hours later."

Hendry is in good health after undergoing an angioplasty and like Lilly looking ahead to 2007, despite the fact that the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908.

"We have a ton of talent here, maybe the best offence since I was with the Yankee World Series team in 2001," Lilly said. "Go around that clubhouse. Everyone has high expectations. Same for the front office: the GM, manager Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. We all want do win the division and continue into October."

Why not? The National League Central is where the defending Series champion St. Louis Cardinals live. St. Louis won after managing 83 wins over the 2006 regular season.

There are two must-mention games when looking at Lilly's Toronto time. He was 37-34 in 89 starts with a 4.52 earned-run average.

The first was Aug. 23, 2004 at SkyDome, when Lilly pitched a complete-game, three-hit shutout to beat the Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox 3-0. Lilly whiffed 13 and called it his best outing.

The other game that won't be forgotten was two days shy of the third anniversary of the Boston win. Lilly took the mound in the bottom of the third inning with an 8-0 lead at Rogers Centre.

Suddenly -- after Lilly allowed Oakland A's hitters to walk, single, double, homer, homer, double and single, while retiring one man -- manager John Gibbons made his second trip with the Jays leading 8-5 and two runners aboard.

Lilly said he wasn't coming out. An old-fashioned Cito Gaston/David Wells you're-grandma-wears-army-goggles screaming match came next, then a one-on-one confrontation in the tunnel before players separated the two.

"That was not a big deal to us because every manager is different," Hendry said, "and it couldn't have been that bad or the Jays would not have pursued him as hard as we were."

As Hendry added, the Jays knew "Lilly better than we did."

"That was a heat-of-the-moment thing," Lilly said. "We both weren't happy with what we did. It was a lack of self-control on both of our parts.

"Paul Godfrey met with me in the office and while he didn't tell me what to say, he wanted me to be under control before I spoke with the media."

Lilly was asked if he hit Gibbons in the tunnel that night?

"You asked me that last August," Lilly said.

Yes, he was told but our experience has been over the years that players' opinions often change with uniforms.

"I'm not like that, I'm consistent," Lilly said calmly.

The only time he seemed taken aback was when he was asked about a report that he signed elsewhere because the Jays re-signed catcher Gregg Zaun.

"Gregg Zaun? Are you kidding?" Lilly said, "He's a good catcher."


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