LOS ANGELES -- Many folks around Los Angeles and around baseball have been taken by surprise at Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly's red-hot start to the 2012 season.
Don't count manager Don Mattingly as one of them.
Lilly got the start in Sunday's series finale vs. the Rockies, and Mattingly noted that his early-season success is by no means unexpected -- at least to him.
"This year in spring, I think we saw a difference," Mattingly said. "We felt like he had better finish on the ball in Spring Training, he was getting the ball down early on, his breaking stuff was sharper and you could just see a difference."
Heading into Sunday's start, Lilly sported a 4-0 record and a 1.41 ERA.
The 4-0 record comes on the heels of two seasons in which he went a combined four games under .500.
One thing Mattingly noted is that Lilly is "usually kind of a slow starter." But this season, because he was injury free at the end of 2011, Lilly was able to prepare himself adequately in the offseason for 2012, Mattingly said.
"He's definitely sharper," said Mattingly, noting that that's been the case since Day One of Spring Training. In 2011, Mattingly said Lilly threw "duds" for pitches early in spring -- something he never saw in 2012.
That has carried over into the season, as Lilly, heading into Sunday, had allowed five earned runs in five starts and was striking out almost six batters per nine innings.