Chad Billingsley’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been filled with a wide range of emotions and he once appeared to be on track for a possible return in May only to be removed from a rehab start early due to what was described as a sensation in his elbow.
An MRI revealed the feeling was scar tissue breaking, which is normal for someone who has undergone Tommy John surgery. Since that point, Billingsley has resumed throwing, only to be shut down by tendinitis. The right-hander received a platelet-rich plasma injection in late April and made his return to the mound Thursday by way of a simulated game.
According to Steve Dileck of the LA Times, Billingsley was pleased by his health following the simulated game:
My arm is feeling really good right now and I’m real happy the way it responded,” Billingsley said. “It’s not throbbing or anything like that. It wasn’t really fatigued after throwing 30 pitches, so it’s definitely responding very well right now.”
While Josh Beckett and Dan Haren have answered the bell at the backend of the Dodger pitching staff, Billingsley believes he’ll be a starter upon returning:
I’m preparing to start right now,” he said. “If they had some other thing, why would I be doing multiple innings? So in my mind-set, I’m preparing to start.”
With the delays in Billingsley’s recovery, the Dodgers moved the 29-year-old to the 60-day disabled list on April 30. Once believed to be in consideration for a spot in the rotation, Billingsley may now find it difficult to avoid being placed in the bullpen; despite the fact he’s never appeared in more than three games as a reliever since the 2007 season.
Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA this season and is fresh off a no-hitter as he continues to impress, coming off his own surgery. Aside from the possibility of unforeseen injuries to any of the starters, Billingsley may get an opportunity to start should Haren be placed on the DL.
Haren began the season 4-0 before suffering a loss on May 7 to the Washington Nationals. Following the loss, Haren mentioned his back was more sore than normal and indicated the soreness is something he deals with on a daily basis.
Since that start, Haren is 1-2 with a no-decision in the Dodgers’ loss on Thursday. Assuming Billingsley returns this season, it may afford the Dodgers the luxury of being able to place Haren on the DL without reinserting Paul Maholm, who struggled as a starter, into the rotation.
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