Through the array of baseball’s frontier justice so far this young season, the game has seen one unquestioned king of bad-assery, one primary purveyor of retaliation.
Raise your hand if the first name that came to mind in that regard was Ted Lilly.
Lilly has taken the lead from the No. 3 slot in the Dodgers rotation to single-handedly ensure that nobody takes liberties with his ballclub.
Tim Lincecum hit ex-teammate Juan Uribe twice, on separate occasions. (The second time, during the sixth inning of a tie game, was Lincecum’s final pitch of the night and was clearly unintentional.)
Lilly’s response: Pitching the following day, he hit Buster Posey in his first two at-bats the following day.
Warnings were issued after the second one, and although Giants manager Bruce Bochy had to be ordered back into the dugout by umpire Greg Gibson, no retaliation was in the offing. Posey had no comment afterward on the intent of the pitches; Lilly said he was just trying to pitch “hard in on (Posey’s) hands.” Of course he was.
(For what it’s worth, Lilly didn’t walk a hitter that night, and has averaged only five hit batters per season over the course of his career. Posey opted for legal retaliation after the second drilling, swiping second base for the first regular-season steal of his career.)
Last Monday, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson put a 91 mph fastball behind Jerry Sands’ head, after Sands had doubled and hit a sacrifice fly in his first two at-bats of the game—and his career—all the while serenaded by Dodger Stadium chants of “Je-RRY, Je-RRY.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez later admitted that the pitch was meant to send a message to the surging rookie, but came in higher than intended. Hudson gestured apologetically toward the Dodgers dugout after throwing it.
Lilly’s response: The next inning, he threw a ball behind Nate McLouth. Still, after the game, Hudson sent Sands a make-peace offering—a signed baseball. Sands accepted it, calling it a “classy move.” Lilly was hardly so forgiving.
When asked if he was protecting Sands, he said, via MLB.com: “More than that, I guess, I was disappointed with the pitch Huddy threw. All of you guys know he’s as good as it gets keeping the ball down.”
Lilly’s making $33 million over three years from the Dodgers. He was brought in to stabilize the rotation. Looks like he’s giving it some guts, as well.