These are the posts which are the least fun to write. Even when the Dodgers are in a six-game skid and all hope seems to almost disappear, there is always a positive to reflect upon somewhere in the game. At the end of the night there is almost always that good defensive play, or that all out performance by a specific player, or even perhaps the way a guy hits the ball even if he doesn’t receive a base for hit. No, the saddest and biggest game changer is when a favorite player gets injured.
There’s been many critical injuries sustained by Dodgers over the decades. Russell Martin, the now Pittsburgh catcher, who ended his Dodger career with a attempt to avoid a tag at home plate versus the Padres. Zack Greinke, the Dodgers most expensive arm, broke his collarbone recently against those same N.L. West foes. Sandy Koufax pitched through pain and eventually retired. Pain which would under today’s conditions require Tommy John Surgery. Today we also learned that former Dodger pitcher Jon Ely will be undergoing Tommy John surgery this week.
Chad Billingsley most likely will need Tommy John surgery and this will figure him out of the entire 2013 season. Billingsley will see Dr. Neil ElAttrache Tuesday in Los Angeles, and we will find out the fate of the right-hander. It’s possible that it is just some soreness, but it could be that his Dodger career would be stalled while he undergoes the operation and rehabilitates his elbow. Losing Chad Billingsley for the entirety of the season weakens the Dodger rotation, but it also makes me melancholy to think Billingsley will not be a part of this Dodger season. He has been one of the core players in recent years.
The 28-year old from Defiance, Ohio was seemingly defiant when he opted to not have surgery on a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament last season. Bills instead treated the tear with platelet-rich plasma injections. Billingsley had some minor health issues this past Spring Training including a groin strain and a bruised finger. Neither of these stemmed from his elbow injury. Chad started two games for the Dodgers this season going 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 6 strikeouts and 5 walks in 12 innings pitched. In his first start after returning from the disabled list this April, Billingsley looked good. He only allowed one earned run on 5 hits in 6 innings versus San Diego. I was hopefully optimistic that Billingsley’s elbow had healed, and that he would have a normal and successful season.
Many thought that postponing the inevitable would just increase the time that he would be out of the game
after the surgery. I said in an earlier post this Spring, is that anytime you can avoid major surgery is worth attempting. I think I’d get a thousand PRPs than go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. Have you seen the videos of the surgery? It’s not a procedure to take lightly. Even when more and more pitchers are finding success after elbow reconstructive surgery, there’s still a risk involved. Losing Zack Greinke was a big blow to the team. By also losing Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers rotation is suddenly way less potent and a lot more problematic. When I saw that the Dodgers were to have a surplus of starting pitching going into this season (they had eight starting pitchers on the 25-man roster going into Opening Day, I for some reason thought in the back of my mind that something was going to spur the usage of all available pitching. It’s almost like we jinxed ourselves. Chris Capuano, who has had two Tommy John procedures, was waiting in the wings (the bullpen) to pitch when he was asked. Once Greinke was disabled, Capuano had the opportunity to seize. Once Cappy succumbed to injury after just a few innings of a disastrous start, the Dodgers who had already traded away starter Aaron Harang, were all of a sudden short on pitching.
Ted Lilly will make his season debut in New York on Wednesday. Lilly has been injured through most of last season was deemed not ready by the Dodgers a couple of weeks ago. Lilly now has to be ready, because the Dodgers have little wiggle room now. They had to resort to starting AAA-pitcher Stephen Fife on Sunday when Billingsley reported his elbow soreness. After Fife, the Dodgers would then go to Matt Magill. Magill is on the 40-man roster while top prospect Zach Lee is not. I do not expect to see Zach Lee this year on the big club other than perhaps a brief September call-up.
The old saying “you can never have enough pitching” holds very true this season. Even when the Dodgers had too many starters, unexpected injury can befall more than one player at a time. Pitchers seem like they almost only have a few peak years in them before their velocity declines or their arm gives way to tearing. Major League pitchers put a lot of stress on their arms, especially power pitchers like Chad Billingsley.
Billingsley is one of the longest-tenured Dodgers now. The Dodgers drafted him back in 2003 in the 1st round (24th pick) out of Defiance High School. He made his Dodger debut on June 15, 2006 at the age of 21. He’s in his second year of 3-year of a $33 million deal. The Dodgers owe him $11 million for 2013, $12 million for 2014, and there’s a $14 million team option for 2015 or a $3 million buyout. I hope that Billingsley can come back and find himself pitching in Dodger Blue again.
Chad Billingsley is not only an exciting pitcher to watch as he uses a full arsenal of pitches, but he is also somewhat handy with a bat. Bills has a .140 career batting average with 2 homeruns over his career as a Dodger. Some may cite his inconsistencies and his inability to live up to the expectation which a no. 2 pitcher behind Clayton Kershaw is looked to to achieve. We were frustrated when Bills didn’t pitch the way we know he can pitch. We’ve seen him use his pitches brilliantly over the years as a Dodger, but other times he relied too much on his cutter instead of having confidence in his fastball.
If Chad Billingsley is lost for the season, we have then lost a core Dodger. Not being able to watch Billingsley pitch for the Dodgers this season will be disappointing, and I am pretty sure that teammates Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Clayton Kershaw feel the same.
Some say not too get emotionally involved with a player. Too late. I’m forever emotionally involved with this team.