The deeper Chad Billingsley pitches into spring training, the further removed he gets from the elbow injury that prematurely ended his 2012 season, the more he becomes tangible for the 2013 Dodgers. That process continued on Thursday as Billingsley pitched effectively in the Dodgers' 11-11 tie with the Rangers.
"If you didn't know anything, does he look any different to you than he looked any other time?" manager Don Mattingly said he asked pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "And the answer is no. It's really good news for us, the way he's bouncing back and the way his arm is."
Billingsley pitched into the fourth inning in his third outing of the spring, and allowed two runs, including one earned. He didn't allow a hit until the third inning, and the runs weren't scored the fourth frame. But more importantly, Billingsley is feeling fine, as if this were a normal spring and not one which he was recovering from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.
Not that he doesn't think about the injury every now and then.
"I'm having no problem bouncing back, and I'm throwing all my pitches effectively. I think it is behind me," Billingsley said. "But you never know, every time you step out on the mound, each pitcher, it's just part of the game for us."
If Billingsley doesn't see himself as a question mark, what about management?
"It doesn't matter what they [management] think," Billingsley said. "It's only what I think. I know how I'm feeling."
But management is starting to come around to Billingsley's way of thinking, with each successive start.
"It seems like the more and more that we go," Mattingly said. "We came in concerned over last year, was he going to be able to hold up? To this point, there hasn't been any mention of Chad in the medical, or needing an extra day."
Billingsley said he mixed in his cutter more on Thursday, and will continue to progressively mix in more pitches as the spring goes on. He has passed every test to date, and with each passing day continues to move further and further away from the surgery.
"I'm feeling good, throwing hard, throwing everything," Billingsley said. "They monitor everything, especially with me. In my whole rehab process that I went through last year, I had velocities I had to hit. The ball feels good coming out of my hand, that's all that matters."
- Josh Beckett also pitched on Thursday, in a game against minor leaguers, with Matt Wallach catching, on one of the back fields at Camelback Ranch. Beckett allowed three hits, including a double by Chris Jacobs, and no runs in four innings, and threw 58 pitches. He struck out three, and looked as sharp as he had all spring, which included five scoreless innings in two Cactus League starts before Thursday.
"He was good as far as locating. He really worked on the off speed a lot, threw a lot of curve balls and change ups," said Mattingly, who watched the start along with Honeycutt. "He pretty much threw the ball where he wanted, and set him up for his next start."
Beckett, who was pitching on short rest on Thursday, will next start on Tuesday against the Reds in Goodyear.
- Old friend Josh Lindblom entered the ninth inning for the Rangers with the three-run lead, but a hit by pitch and a base hit set the stage for Matt Angle, who hit a three-run home run to tie the game.
- Brian Barden went 2-for-2 with a double and so far this spring is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with three walks.
- Dee Gordon went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and stole two bases. His five steals are tied for the major league spring training lead with Desmond Jennings of the Rays and Ezequiel Carrera of the Indians.
The Dodgers have a pair of games on Friday, but it's not a split squad. They head to Scottsdale in the afternoon to face the Giants, with Ted Lilly starting on the mound against Barry Zito. Then, the Reds come to Glendale for a night game at Camelback Ranch, with Chris Capuano starting against Bronson Arroyo.
But with a reported 90% chance of rain in Scottsdale, that could change plans. Mattingly said he may group Lilly and Capuano together in one of the games in the case of rain, assuming they can get one in.