Persistent neck pain limited Ted Lilly to just 23 Major League innings this season, but the left-hander is playing winter ball in Venezuela with an eye toward getting back to the Majors in 2014, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.
Lilly's agent, Larry O'Brien, told Nicholson-Smith that his client visited a cervical spine specialist and had the nerve endings on the right side of his neck cauterized. "The procedure has given him relief," O'Brien told Nicholson-Smith.
Lilly, 38 in January, is aiming for 35-40 innings this winter. The 15-year veteran totaled just 71 2/3 innings over the final two seasons of his three-year, $33MM contract with the Dodgers. He totaled a 3.74 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 975 innings between the Cubs and Dodgers from 2007-11 — his age 31-35 seasons.
Lilly got off to a strong start in 2012, pitching to a 1.79 ERA through his first seven starts. In his eighth and final start, however, he yielded eight runs in 3 1/3 innings. He missed the remainder of the season with shoulder pain before undergoing surgery on his left labrum in September that year. Lilly returned in 2013 to post a 5.09 ERA in his 23 innings. Lilly has a long history of injuries, as he's only topped 200 innings twice in his career, but signing him would come with little to no risk for a team in need of rotation depth and a veteran presence.