Lilly roots for teammate Johnson's return
Pitcher wants free-agent-to-be to come back to Chicago
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly began a campaign to keep free-agent outfielder Reed Johnson on the team when he walked into the interview room at Wrigley Field Wednesday wearing a blue T-shirt that said, "With Reed, we will succeed."
"I'm trying to bring him back," Lilly said. "We'll do what we can."
Johnson was in the starting lineup for his 63rd game Wednesday in the second half of the Cubs' doubleheader against the Pirates. Lilly (12-9) lost the first game, his last start of the season, as the Cubs fell, 4-0.
Johnson has been limited this year because of a fractured left foot, injured in late July when he fouled a ball off it. He's one of four free agents on the Cubs roster, joining Kevin Gregg, Rich Harden and John Grabow, who are uncertain about where they'll be next year.
The outfielder was given the shirt by a flight attendant whose family member has formed a Reed Johnson fan club. He was flattered by his teammates' support, but said you have to consider Lilly's unique style.
"I didn't have enough guts to put it on myself or give it to my family members," Johnson said of the shirt, "and Ted wears anything."
Lilly does have an assortment of brightly colored socks. He also believes in Johnson.
"I definitely enjoy playing with the guy," Lilly said. "Regardless of what happens with any of the players next year, our front office will do the best job they can. One thing for sure is I don't have the answers as to what we need to do. I'm busy as it is with my own job. They're good at what they do."
"I guess it's nice to have teammates who want you back," Johnson said. "That's a good thing."
He does want to return.
"For sure," Johnson said. "It's a great organization, and the best two years of my career have been spent here and hopefully I can continue to be successful here."
Lilly has one year remaining on his contract. Will Johnson reciprocate and make up a T-shirt for the lefty?
"We'll think of something," Johnson said.
What rhymes with Lilly?
"'Silly,'" Johnson said, "and that fits him perfect."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.