Chad Billingsley was arguably pitching the best in his career, but an injury at the end of the 2012 season ruined everything. Billingsley partially tore the UCL in his pitching elbow and after trying to rehab the injury, he went under the knife after just two starts last season.
Billingsley had the procedure done last April and Tommy John surgery requires an entire year of recovery before a pitcher can even think about getting back on the mound. Ideally, the right hander will be able to return midseason, either in late May or early June. The main question on everyone’s mind once he’s back, is how well will he look after just a significant surgery.
It’s a major toss up as to whether or not a player can bounce back after Tommy John surgery. Many have success stories, whereas many others aren’t as lucky and never return to form. However, Billingsley has started to throw breaking balls for the first time since his surgery and is dealing with expected soreness. He admitted to feeling rusty, but commented that he felt good for the most part and just needs a little while to get the feel back. Additionally, before camp started, Billingsley threw nine bullpen sessions, in which he claimed to have zero setbacks. These are all promising signs as the organization looks towards 2014.
In his two starts in 2013, Billingsley recorded a win and pitched for all of 12 innings. He had a 3.00 ERA, striking out six batters while walking five. Even just after these two starts, Billingsley season was looking extremely promising. Although his 2012 statistics may be a little more telling with a sample size of 25 starts in the regular season. He went 10-9 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. If Billingsley were able to stay healthy last season, he would’ve given the Dodgers four solid starters with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and himself.
When May or June comes around, the team will surely be excited to see Billingsley back. He’ll likely be competing against Beckett for the fifth spot in the rotation and having sufficient rotation depth is never a bad thing. To guard against injury, the Dodgers signed Paul Maholm as insurance while they have Matt Magill or Stephen Fife waiting in the wings.
Fans can only hope that Billingsley will return in 2014 with the same reliability and consistency he had before his surgery. If he and Beckett end up having to battle it out for the fifth spot in the rotation, it’ll only be an indicator of the depth that the Dodgers have at the back end of their rotation.
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