It isn’t often a team welcomes back a handful of former players in one season who made an impact before moving on to a new club. But, such has been the case this year at Dodger Stadium as Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Matt Kemp and Juan Uribe have all stood across the dugout they once called home.
Chad Billingsley became the latest to join the group, who started Tuesday’s game for the Philadelphia Phillies and put together one of his better outings this season to earn his first win in five starts. With the exception of Dan Haren’s return, Billingsley’s was the most subdued.
A “Thanks, Chad.” message was shown on the video boards at Dodger Stadium, which elicited some applause from the crowd. Billingsley went on to soss six innings against his former club, giving up six hits and allowing two runs — on a Yasmani Grandal home run. “It’s been a long road. I was pretty excited to be back out there today and be in a familiar atmosphere,” Billingsley said.
“It was a lot of emotions. It was a fun day.” In facing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who selected him in the first round of the 2003, Billingsley said he fought against throwing with extra adrenaline and focused on getting his pitches over.
The right-hander didn’t identify one specific reason he pitched well Tuesday, but thought he was able to take advantage of the Dodgers’ aggression to get them to hit weak ground balls. Los Angles also twice ran into outs on the bases.
After a long road to recovery Billingsley is focused on getting back into the routine of a normal starter. “The main thing for me is just getting out there every fifth day,” he said. “Getting into a routine, pitching every five days and becoming a baseball player again.”
Billingsley spent a total of eight seasons with the Dodgers and finished with a career mark of 81-61 with a 3.65 ERA. The right-hander won a career-best 16 games in 2008 and earned his lone All-Star bid in 2009. He suffered multiple setbacks in his comeback attempt last season, which invariably played a role in the Dodgers’ declining their team option on him for the 2015 season.