As Chad Billingsley continues to work his way back from Tommy John surgery, he finds himself in the conversation with starting pitchers Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm for the final spot in the starting rotation. However, the expectation is that Billingsley likely won’t be ready to pitch until late May or June after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April.
According to JP Hoonstra of the Los Angeles Daily News, Billingsley isn’t focused on the number of pitchers competing for the fifth spot in the rotation and has faith he’ll have a spot in the rotation:
To justify that faith, all Billingsley had to do was point to last year, when he was one of eight starters with guaranteed major-league contracts when camp began.
“I went down, Zack (Greinke) missed a while, Cappy (Chris Capuano) was hurt for a while (all) within the first month,” Billingsley said. “Isn’t it nice that we had that just in case?”
Fortunately for Billingsley, he’s been able to consult with former teammate and current free agent pitcher Chris Capuano, who’s endured two Tommy John surgeries, for advice:
I talked to Chris Capuano, because he’s gone through two. He said, ‘Don’t try to rush it whatsoever,’ because when you first start throwing in August and you get a few weeks into it … you feel like you can throw harder. But no, stay back. The idea is to be patient with it and don’t try to do too much. When you start rushing, you pop it.
Prior to being shut down last season, Billingsley managed to start two games, earning one win in 12 innings worth of work. He owns a career record of 81-61, 3.65 ERA, 110 ERA+ and 1.36 WHIP. The eight-year veteran’s high for games pitched in a season is 43, which came in 2007, Billingsley’s second season with the Dodgers. Since that point, the right-hander hasn’t appeared in more than 35 games in one season.
Assuming Beckett and Maholm maintain good health and are able to compete through spring training for the final spot in the rotation, Billingsley may find himself relegated to bullpen duty upon his return. Should that be the case, he could serve as a valuable long-relief option.
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