Toronto's left-hander missed the last two Spring Trainings due to various injuries, but he reported healthy this year, a reality that has allowed him to work on a few leftover problems. On Monday, Lilly made his fourth start of the spring and threw five scoreless innings against the Reds.
"It is nice to try to figure some things out right now, especially coming off the year I had last year," said Lilly, who went 10-11 with a 5.56 ERA in 2005. "I needed to have a full Spring Training to come out here and kind of get tuned in and to try and get back to where I was in '04."
Lilly, who was an American League All-Star in 2004, said that he's been working on his stride towards the plate. Last year, he said he had a tendency to have a "stiff" landing with his right leg, which put unnecessary strain on his throwing shoulder. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lilly sat out last spring with a shoulder injury.
Missing the last two springs with the Blue Jays might have taken a toll on his performances in April. Lilly went 2-4 with a 5.48 ERA in that month between 2004-05. He's hoping that being at Spring Training this year will help him get off to a better start.
After the outing against Cincinnati, Lilly has a 3.21 ERA with 10 strikeouts and five walks across 14 innings this spring. He gave up six hits against the Reds, but Lilly worked out of jams in the first and second inning -- stranding two runners in scoring position in both frames.
Lilly threw 88 pitches, including 56 strikes, and said that despite the high pitch count, he felt good enough to stay in the game if Toronto wanted him to.
"I think the one thing is, I was throwing the ball correctly as far as what [Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] and I were talking about," Lilly said. "Today, I felt like I was getting over my front side better and taking some of your work out of your arm."
Airing it out: Reed Johnson was in center field on Monday -- his second straight day playing the outfield after missing most of Spring Training with a strained right elbow. Johnson also had the opportunity to really test his recovering arm for the first time in a game.
In the fifth inning, Cincinnati's Felipe Lopez tried to stretch a single to center into a double, but Johnson fielded the ball and threw Lopez out at second base. Then in the sixth, Rich Aurilia attempted to score on a single to center by Reds' catcher Jason LaRue. Johnson made a perfect throw to the plate, nailing Aurilia and recording his second outfield assist on the day.
"I was more concerned with that first assist to second base, because I kind of threw it off my back foot," Johnson said. "It was almost all arm. I didn't get much body behind it. I felt good, surprisingly.
Frank Catalanotto was in left field for the first time since March 13 due to the sore shoulder he suffered while playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Catalanotto didn't have any plays that forced him to throw the ball hard, but he said that was a good thing. He wants to gradually build his arm back up to 100 percent before testing it like Johnson did on Monday.
Center of attention: Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells didn't make the trip to Sarasota on Monday, but Ken Griffey Jr., who played alongside Wells on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, was in the lineup for the Reds.
Getting the chance to play with Griffey was one of the main reasons Wells opted to play in the Classic.
"Griffey was the one person I was able to watch as a kid growing up," Wells said on Feb. 28. "I didn't watch too much baseball, but if the Mariners were playing, the game was going to be on. ... He's the guy I tried to model my game after as much as possible."
Wells replaced Griffey in center field a handful of times during the tournament and he also had the opportunity to play right field when Griffey was in the game. When he returned to Knology Park on Saturday, Wells said that playing with the 10-time Gold Glove winner was a great experience.
"It was fun. Going and watching him on a day-to-day basis and seeing what he's able to do still at the age of 36, it's amazing," Wells said on Saturday. "He's arguably one of the top 10 players to ever play this game and put a uniform on."
Quotable: "That was pretty much an embarassment. If Mickey Brantley can teach me how to hit, he'd be the greatest hitting coach alive."--Lilly, on striking out twice against the Reds
Coming up: After Toronto's off day on Tuesday, left-hander Gustavo Chacin will make his first start of the spring when the Blue Jays host the Pirates at 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla. In two appearances, Chacin has given up one unearned run and four hits with two strikeouts across four innings.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.