After partially tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last August, then not opting for surgery, Chad Billingsley was always a question mark for the Dodgers heading into 2013. But, now less than a week before opening day, Billingsley's availability for opening day is in doubt, but it has nothing to do with his arm.
Billingsley has a bruised right finger suffered in a bunting drill on Mar. 15. It prevented Billingsley from throwing a curve ball until Monday, for fear of losing the nail on his right index finger. But now Billingsley has thrown the curve, and the next step is being able to effectively use it. If Billingsley can convince the Dodgers he is capable of doing that in his simulated game on Thursday, he will likely get the call on Apr. 2, in the second game of the regular season against the Giants. If not, he might be pushed back a start or two.
But that Billingsley is even available to pitch is a story in itself. He had two injections of platelet-rich plasma into his elbow late last season, opting for the same non-surgical treatment that Takashi Saito had in 2008 while with the Dodgers.
The risk was relatively simple for Billingsley. If he had Tommy John surgery, he would have missed all of 2013 anyway. By opting for the PRP treatments, Billingsley gave himself a chance at pitching this season, and if his elbow blows out he could be out for the season anyway.
But it has been so far, so good for Billingsley, who has not been on any medical report or delayed in any way this spring by his elbow. He has essentially been as normal a pitcher as anyone else
"If you didn't know anything, does he look any different to you than he looked any other time? And the answer is no," manager Don Mattingly said earlier this spring. "It's really good news for us, the way he's bouncing back and the way his arm is."
Now there is the matter of just how well Billingsley will perform. He was struggling through a second straight mediocre campaign until a coincidentally bearded Billingsley went on the best run of his career. He was 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his final seven starts, including the first six-start winning streak of his career. It directly followed the first five-start losing streak of his career.
Billingsley now has no beard, but a healthy elbow, and for now, that's all the Dodgers can ask for.
Billingsley in 2012 became the 17th Dodgers pitcher in franchise history to record 1,000 strikeouts. He has 1,036 strikeouts in 1,163⅓ career innings.
Billingsley will make $11 million in 2013 in the second season of a three-year contract.
Previous player profiles
2010: No subtitle needed
2011: No subtitle needed
2012: True number 2/3 starter
|2013 Projections - Age 28 Season|
I wasn't counting on Billingsley pitching at all this season, but now that he's healthy I'll say he puts up a 3.50 ERA in 29 starts.
Be sure to guess how you think Billingsley will do in 2013. Include ERA, number of starts, and whatever else you wish to guess.