While the Dodgers have been busy stock piling starting pitchers this offseason, now having Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Ryu Hyun-Jin all on the roster. While some of those names are being shopped around as potential trade material, Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley‘s health issues are still a concern going into the 2013 season.
The most determining piece of the rotational puzzle will most certainly be the health of Chad Billingsley. Bills suffered a partially torn right elbow ligament, and he has been working to recover and rehab without succumbing to Tommy John surgery. It is pretty rare for a pitcher with a torn elbow to bounce back without surgical repair, but Billingsley has reportedly responded well to plasma rich injections and may be healthy for next year after all. The 28-year old right-hander has been a Dodger all of his seven Major League seasons after being drafted by Los Angeles in the first round of the 2003 amateur draft. Chad had his best year in L.A. in 2008 when he went 16-10 with a 3.14 ERA. Since then, he has posted very similar numbers in each of his next four years with the Dodgers (12-11, 12-11, 11-11, 10-9). Overall, Billingsley is 80-61 with a career 3.66 ERA in 1,163 1/3 innings.
The reports on Billingsley have all been good this offseason thus far. Earlier this month, Don Mattingly said that Billingsley had resumed his throwing program. He had completed his throwing program three weeks after the 2012 season concluded, and he had begun a new one at the beginning of December. He has been throwing pain free and hitting 94 mph.
Although Billingsley has struggled to piece two successful season halves together since
2008, he undoubtedly has the talent and pitch repertoire to be a front line starter. Some have argued that Bills has not lived up to expectations since many viewed him as a number two guy behind Clayton Kershaw. Low run support behind Bills in the past few seasons has certainly been somewhat of a nail in his tire. The frustrating part is that we’ve seen him pitch brilliantly at times, and we can see that he has the talent to be the pitcher whom the Dodgers need him to be. He’s been an integral part of this team and one of the core players-which only a few remain. A healthy and successful Chad Billingsley in 2013 could put the Dodgers starting rotation into the stratosphere. With two Cy Young Award winners in the 1-2 spots, and an exciting debut of Korean all-star Ryu Hyun-Jin whose ready to make a name for himself in the MLB, Billingsley’s strides in 2013 could potentially give the Dodgers the best rotation in the league.
All the reports have indicated that both Ted Lilly (who is recovering from season-ending shoulder surgery) and Billingsley will be healthy and ready this Spring. The Dodgers will have to tread lightly since trading both Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano could cause issue if Lilly and or Bills has a setback. Remember, the Dodgers just traded John Ely to Houston, so their starting pitching at the AAA level is lacking. Perhaps Billingsley or Lilly will pitch out of the bullpen if warranted. The Dodgers could very well keep their eight potential starters going into Spring Training.
Billingsley is signed through 2014 with a $14 million team option for 2015 which includes a $3 million buyout.
Do you think Chad Billingsley has what it takes to be a top of the rotation starter? Or do you think Billingsley will inevitably finish with another 12-11 season if healthy? Tell us in the comments.