Concern with Chad Billingsley's nail on his right index finger has pushed back his final spring appearance, opening the door for Hyun-jin Ryu to start for the Dodgers on Apr. 2, in their second game of the regular season.
Billingsley will pitch in a minor league game on Friday afternoon at Camelback Ranch, and appears likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
Billingsley threw curve balls in a bullpen session on Monday, his first time throwing the pitch since injuring his right finger in a bunting drill on Mar. 15. He was originally slated to pitch Thursday in Rancho Cucamonga, keeping him in line to possibly start on Apr. 2. But that game was deemed by MLB as a major league game, and the Dodgers wanted to keep Billingsley on the minor league side in order to back date a possible disabled list stint.
"That decision got easier because Hyun-jin pitched great and Bills got banged up. Bills' situation is really about getting him as right as possible," said manager Don Mattingly. "Bills really hasn't thrown that many innings, and most of them have been on the minor league side. The finger thing has dictated what has happened here."
Billingsley has pitched a total of 7⅔ innings in Cactus League games. Only Ted Lilly, with 6⅔ innings, has pitched fewer among the eight starting pitchers in camp.
The Dodgers could make any disabled list stint retroactive as far back as Mar. 22, provided the player doesn't play in any major league games after that date. The earliest such a player could be activated is Apr. 6.
Thursday is a camp day on the minor league side with no games, so Billingsley was shifted to Friday.
"We wanted him to pitch in a competitive environment, not just facing minor league hitters standing in there," said Mattingly.
Because of off days on Apr. 4 and Apr. 8, the Dodgers have some flexibility in that they don't technically need a fifth starter until Apr. 13. But the Dodgers haven't yet committed to much outside of the first week.
"We'll see how Bills comes out of this and how he's doing, and how the other starts too, making sure everybody's okay before starting to setup spots," Mattingly said. "With off days we have a couple of different options we could go with, depending on who we want to try to give the rest to."
Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers on Apr. 1 against the Giants, then again on Apr. 6 against the Pirates on regular rest. After Ryu starts on Apr. 2, Josh Beckett gets the start on Apr. 3 against the Giants. Zack Greinke will make his Dodgers debut on Apr. 5 against the Pirates. If Billingsley is ready he could start as soon as Apr. 7, but that remains to be seen.
Ryu is 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA during spring training with 23 strikeouts (second on the team to Kershaw) and eight walks in 23⅓ innings.
"He's pitched good pretty much every time," Mattingly said. "He's gotten better and better as we've went along."