After months of waiting, the Dodgers finally shut down Ted Lilly for the season Friday. The 36-year-old pitcher will have arthroscopic surgery on his left (throwing) shoulder a week from today; the surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
Head athletic trainer Sue Falsone said that, barring any unexpected discoveries, Lilly will be able to resume throwing in January and can begin his spring training program on time.
“Ideally it is a simple cleanup procedure,” Falsone said. “Obviously the doctor won’t exactly know what he will or will not do until he gets inside the joint, but that’s the plan as of now.”
Lilly hasn’t pitched since May, so why do the surgery now? There wasn’t enough reason to perform the surgery any earlier –a recent MRI showed degeneration, Falsone said –and the team held out hope that he would be able to return in September merely by having him rest.
“Surgery is never a first option, unless it’s something that is clearly torn,” Falsone said. “Things weren’t turning a corner, so we looked on to 2013.”
Lilly’s season seemed to be on the brink over the last month, as his rehab program began, then ended, then began again.The shoulder pain proving itself to be a recurring problem, compounded briefly by a back injury earlier this month.
It’s easy to forget that, when he was pitching, Lilly was an early candidate for the National League all-star roster. He’ll finish 2012 with a 5-1 record and a 3.14 earned-run average, despite the lowest strikeout-per-nine-inning ratio of his career (5.7).
Little-known but important fact about Lilly: Including performance bonuses, he was the Dodgers’ highest-paid player this season according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. He’s under contract for one more year at $12 million (before bonuses) and has a full no-trade clause.