The Dodgers picked up a win today against the Cubs with a walk-off single by catcher Orlando Mercado, but the news of the day came earlier in the contest. Chad Billingsley made his fifth start of the spring, and threw six shutout innings. He has used the spring to work on his changeup and curveball, but today Billingsley took a bit of a different approach, per Tony Jackson of ESPN LA:
"Today, I was approaching it as a [regular-season] game," Billingsley said. "I was mixing all my pitches, and I felt good out there. My curveball felt great. I used the changeup a lot and used it effectively. [Catcher] Rod [Barajas] called a great game, and we got on the same page pretty early. We knew what each other was thinking."
Billingsley threw 94 pitches in his start, and told the Associated Press: "And I still felt strong," he said. "I had good fastball command, and my changeup was really good. … I want to build off today and take it into the season." Jackson also noted that Billingsley, like Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda, will throw an abbreviated game -- 60 pitches or so -- in their final spring start, as a final tuneup for the regular season.
Once Billingsley left the game, Lance Cormier started the seventh inning, but was pulled with two outs and runners on first and third. In came Scott Elbert, who struck out Tyler Colvin to end the threat. That was the only batter Elbert faced today, but it, combined with his last outing, have increased his standing in the race for a bullpen spot.
At the beginning of spring training, it appeared that Elbert and Ron Mahay were fighting for the situational left-hander role in the bullpen. But the non-roster invitee Mahay hasn't looked good at all, while Elbert started off with control problems, which has been the bane of his entire career. However, Elbert has the stuff to be more than a situational lefty, and his recent outings have increased his standing with the club. The key for Elbert has been simply slowing down and relaxing, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
"If you notice," said Elbert, "Rod takes a deep breath before he gives me the sign, and I take one and then it's, OK, let's get the sign. I'm starting to get it. When the count was 2-2, I stepped off to grab the rosin bag. Slowing down the game has been my problem my whole career."
- Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a scoreless eighth inning, striking out two
- Hector Gimenez played left field today, and actually threw out Colvin at the plate, but was also 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. As for why Gimenez hasn't been catching (he hasn't caught in a game since March 10), Ned Colletti told Jackson, "We signed him, really, for his offense. He is a pretty good hitter, but his defense is still a work in progress."
- Non-roster infielder/outfielder Eugenio Velez had two hits today, but injured his ankle in the seventh inning and was carted off the field. Velez suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain, per Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, which usually means a partial muscle tear
- Hernandez wrote a feature on Tim Redding, who is battling for the fifth starter spot that may or may not be needed (depending on the health of Jon Garland) on April 12. We learn that Redding will make $750,000 if he makes the big league team, and that Redding does not have an out clause until June 15, which could affect the decision of whether or not to add him to the roster for a short-term need.
- Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness takes a look at left field and asks the question: "Is Jay Gibbons The Best Use of a Roster Spot?"
- Happy 43rd birthday, Ramon Martinez
- The Dodgers stay at home on Wednesday, but they will be the road team as they face the Chicago White Sox for the fourth and final time this spring. Ted Lilly will start for the Dodgers, and be opposed on the mound by John Danks.