OAKLAND (AP) — Ted Lilly would have loved to keep pitching — if his body would allow him to start every fifth day, and if he could stay off the disabled list.
Instead, the 37-year-old left-hander is retiring after 15 seasons because of further problems with his shoulder and back.
He went to winter ball in Venezuela this month with the hope his body would cooperate and he could find a major league job. But Lilly didn’t feel right, and he made just one three-inning appearance during a 20-day stint in Valencia. He would have pitched again except he got food poisoning.
“It came to a point that, unfortunately, the reality set in where I was in terms of health and effectiveness,” Lilly said by phone Friday. “Those combinations are what forced me to retire. If I felt I could still be productive and healthy, I would be playing, for sure. As of today, I don’t think it’s reasonable. I didn’t believe I would be able to go out there and be productive and effective for a major league team and stay healthy to make 30 starts.”
He returned home to California on Wednesday night, and looks forward to spending time with his wife and two young children.
A two-time All-Star, Lilly was 130-113 with a 4.14 ERA in parts of 15 major league seasons. He pitched for Montreal, Oakland, Toronto, the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Dodgers.
He has struggled with the idea of retirement for months, even though his shoulder didn’t recover well. Designated for assignment by the Dodgers — the team that selected him in the 23rd round of the 1996 amateur draft — on July 25, Lily first tried rest.
Late in the season, he saw a spine specialist in Los Angeles and underwent surgery to cauterize the nerve endings in the right side of his neck. He was limited to 13 starts the past two seasons for Los Angeles because of injury problems, going 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in five 2013 starts.
“As I sit here right now I’m OK but it’s been difficult for weeks because I’ve had to deal with those thoughts and avoid those thoughts for a long time, and continue to talk myself into it that I could find a way to do it,” he said.
“I really do not want to spend more time on the disabled list. I’ve spent so much time on that dreaded list. It really came down to a matter of being effective. If I believed could produce, I would still pitch. So, it was a decision that was forced on me at where I was physically in my career.”
He expects to do coach down the line, probably at the youth baseball level initially.
Lilly is left to cherish the relationships and friendships he made with both teammates and opponents.
“I was so lucky, the game of baseball really changed my life,” he said. “I know a lot of ex-players say that or people who are playing the game, and it’s true. Baseball has been my life for so many years in some facet or the other I hope to continue to stay close to the game. It’s a game that I love.”
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