Lilly throwing again, hopes to debut by late April

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Ted Lilly threw live batting practice yesterday and reported no pain in his surgically repaired shoulder or recently injured knee, indicating that he hopes to join the Cubs’ rotation by late April:

I feel pretty darn good. I don’t know how close to normal. The most important thing is when you get up there on the mound. I haven’t thrown any breaking balls yet. It’s a different deal when you’re throwing bullpen [sessions] or even batting practice as opposed to when you get in a game and work out of jams.

Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune reports that Lilly will next throw a simulated game and then perhaps advance to real game action in extended spring training. He won’t be in the Opening Day rotation, but it sounds like Lilly won’t miss more than a few starts if he can avoid setbacks.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.