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Lilly asks Dodgers to move him into relief role

PHOENIX -- Dodgers left-handed pitcher Ted Lilly, frustrated with his third stint on the disabled list this season, told club officials Tuesday to try him as a reliever.

Lilly hasn't made a relief appearance since 2003, but he's now 37 and concedes that he can't manage a chronic neck problem with a starter's workload.

"Ideally, I'd like to be a starter and be effective in that role," said Lilly. "I've had a hard time staying healthy. I pitched Saturday [rehab start at Class A Rancho Cucamonga], and it was sore Sunday. Yesterday, it was pretty good."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seemed pleased to hear that Lilly would embrace a relief role because lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez have evolved into set-up roles and Lilly could assume a situational left-hander position.

"We'll give it a shot," said Mattingly. "Rick [Honeycutt, pitching coach] will set up a sim game tomorrow and every other day, and we'll see what it looks like. Ted said the best chance for him would be out of the bullpen. I want to be open-minded and see what it looks like."

Lilly is 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in five starts, but his season began on the disabled list coming off last year's surgery. He returned after missing 19 games, but a week later was disabled with a strained ribcage muscle. He returns after missing 17 games, but two weeks later was disabled with the neck issue and has been out a month.

Lilly will be a free agent after this season.

"I've thought about it. I've had a lot of down time to think," he said of his future. "I want to play if I can be effective. I'd like to play for a long time. I certainly don't want to be on the DL day after day. I'll play as long as I can, if I can be on the field."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for
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