Chad Billingsley told Jorge Jarrin Thursday night on DodgerTalk that “tomorrow I’ll throw off a mound for the eighth time and I’ve had no issues. It’s just like any other offseason.”
If any other offseason included rehabbing from a partially torn elbow ligament, then sure. While many pitchers opt to repair elbow tears surgically by undergoing the Tommy John procedure, Chad Billingsley instead went another route. He received a couple of platelet-rich plasma injections in his elbow and rested in order to allow the tear to heal. Many skeptics thought that Bills should just go under the knife right away in order to begin the year-long rehab as soon as possible. I disagree with this, and if I were a professional pitcher I too would attempt to rehabilitate my injury conservatively first before choosing a serious operation.
Billingsley ‘s pain-free winter is golden words to my ears, yet I’m still a bit uneasy. The real test will be Spring Training which will commence for pitchers and catchers in a mere 11 days. The Dodgers probably won’t over exert him right away. Yet in order for Bills to be able to take a starting spot in the Dodgers rotation, he will need to work up to pitching at least 5-6 innings in a start. His elbow will be tested, and the only way to see if he is fully healed is to play at actual game level. If the 28-year old right-hander can overcome the odds and bounce back after a potentially career threatening injury, Billingsley would slot in the fifth spot after Josh Beckett in the rotation according to the Dodgers. Chad Billingsley, once thought to be the No. 2 starter for the Dodgers, someone who could be the perfect follow up to Clayton Kershaw in the starting rotation, has not fully lived up to those expectations. While moments of brilliancy on the mound have been sprinkled throughout his 7 seasons as a Dodger, his inconsistencies have caused Dodger fans to want more from him.
Chad Billingsley has a career record of 80-61 with a 3.66 ERA, 2.12 SO/BB, and a 1.361 WHIP. Even though in his last four seasons he tallied almost identical win-loss records (12-11, 12-11, 11-11, 10-9), Billingsley has been one of the most integral players for the Dodgers during that time. In 2009, Billingsley represented the Dodgers in the All-Star game, and if consistent and healthy he can easily regain that status. He has the talent, he just needs to piece two good season halves together.
Chad Billingsley says he “feels absolutely great,” and as a Dodger fan and a Billingsley fan, that makes me feel great as well. Having seen Billingsley pitch many times in person, I can say that he has been one of my favorite Dodger pitchers. I’m rooting for him to come back healthy and ready to claim his rightful spot on this rotation. With eight starting pitchers, the Dodgers are breaking into camp this Spring with insurance. If Billingsley’s elbow falters, they still will have Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Ted Lilly who are all vying for a starting spot as well. The most important factor which will decide the Dodgers’ fate in 2013 is health. If they can avoid new injury, and if the previously injured can bounce back, then the Dodgers will have the cards stacked in their favor. However if there is another hamstring hullabaloo or pitching elbows begin to sore, we may be in for a long season.