Cubs left-hander Lilly has shoulder surgery

Chicago Cubs left-hander Ted Lilly, who’s been one of the team’s most consistent starters the last three seasons, had surgery on his left shoulder and no timetable has been set for his return.

The Cubs said the arthroscopy and debridement procedure performed Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles revealed no major damage to Lilly’s shoulder. Yocum performed a washout and clean-up of the shoulder during the one-hour surgery.

Lilly, who was 12-9 with a 3.10 ERA in 27 starts this season, said he was told initially he might not be able to start throwing for four months, depending on how well his rehab progresses.

“That could change one way or the other. My intention is to try to get back as fast as I can without setting myself back,” Lilly said Wednesday during a conference call.

The Cubs are hoping he can join the rotation sometime in April.

Lilly, who went on the disabled list in July with inflammation in the shoulder before returning to the rotation, said he hoped rest after the season ended would help. But after a month off, surgery became the best option.

“Initially I wanted to try and avoid it,” Lilly said. “I figured it would get better and it did not.”

Lilly, who signed a four-year $40 million deal with the Cubs on Dec. 12, 2006, was 15-8 in 2007 and 17-9 a year ago, making 34 starts each season.

He couldn’t pitch the way he wanted to with the shoulder continuing to bother him.

“My symptoms were to the point it was affecting the way I was throwing and I didn’t feel like I was able to throw the ball without pain and from the normal arm slot that I need to,” he said. “All in all, the news was good to come out of it (the surgery). There wasn’t anything structurally wrong with my shoulder or any significant damage on the inside.”

General manager Jim Hendry said the surgery shouldn’t alter the team’s offseason plans because the Cubs hope Lilly will be back in April. Lilly turns 34 in January.

“We don’t want to take that spot away from Ted,” Hendry said.

Hendry was asked if the Cubs might now consider re-signing free agent right-hander Rich Harden or adding another pitcher. The team is having organizational meetings this week in Arizona.

“We haven’t made any decisions on who’s coming back or not from the club we ended the season with,” Hendry said.