Chad Billingsley allowed four runs in four innings in his minor league rehab assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday night, but more importantly the Dodgers right-hander is healthy and his curve ball was unhindered by the contusion on his right index finger. Billingsley's next start will likely by Wednesday in San Diego against the Padres.
"My curve was a lot sharper. In the last outing I was throwing 50-foot curve balls. Tonight they were more on top of the plate, I got a double play ball out of one. It was definitely worth it coming back here," Billingsley said. "I'm ready for the next outing."
Billingsley officially threw 72 pitches, including 10 curves, in his four innings of work. He allowed six hits and three walks, hit a batter, and struck out two.
Manager Don Mattingly came to Rancho Cucamonga on the Dodgers' off day to offer support for Billingsley, and was joined by assistant pitching coach Ken Howell, special assistant to the general manager Gerry Hunsicker, and VP of player personnel Vance Lovelace, along with other members of the front office.
Mattingly liked what he saw from Billingsley.
"The biggest thing in coming here is seeing him throw, making sure he's pain free, seeing him throw breaking balls. He didn't throw a ton of them, but we saw enough of them," Mattingly said. "He's ready, as long as he's healthy, and he feels like he doesn't go backward in any way, and we don't anticipate any."
At issue with Billingsley has been the nail of his right index finger, which was injured in a bunting drill at Camelback Ranch at Mar. 15. There was fear of losing the nail while the skin around it was too sensitive, which would have prevented Billingsley from throwing any curve balls. Now, even though the nail could be lost any day now, the finger and surrounding skin have healed sufficiently as to not hinder Billingsley from throwing all of his pitches.
After working hard during the offseason to come back from a torn elbow ligament, Billingsley admitted it was hard to accept being sidelined by something as trivial as a fingernail.
"It was definitely frustrating. After 10 weeks of rehab after the elbow problem, I had the mindset that I wanted to be ready for the regular season. Then after I was passed all the rehab I was fine, getting ready for opening day, and two weeks before the season this happens," Billingsley said. This is just part of baseball. It happens."
Billingsley, who made his major league debut in 2006, had never pitched on a minor league rehab assignment before Thursday night. He also took care of his temporary teammates by paying for the postgame spread, a time honored tradition for veterans. Billingsley had food brought in from a local steakhouse.
The Class-A Quakes will eat good for two consecutive nights, as Ted Lilly is expected to make a rehab start with Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night.