LOS ANGELES -- A longstanding home opener tradition is for every player to be introduced by the public address announcer (for today, longtime announcer Ross Porter has the PA honors), and arguably no Dodgers player is as excited to be back at Dodger Stadium than Chad Billingsley.
"It's felt like a year since I was last at Dodger Stadium. You almost forget how beautiful this ballpark is," Billingsley said. "After doing rehab in Arizona at the spring training complex for a year, it's nice to see the stadium and be here for opening day."
The right-hander will begin a five-start minor league rehabilitation assignment on Sunday afternoon with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga against San Jose. Billingsley said the plan is to start once with the Quakes, followed by two starts with Triple-A Albuquerque, then two more starts with Rancho Cucamonga.
"Right now it's five [starts], but that could change," Billingsley explained. "There may be a time I need an extra day or something. It's just kind of tentative right now."
Billingsley partially tore his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in August 2012 but opted for platelet-rich plasma injections rather than surgery. But two starts into the 2013 campaign his UCL was torn and he needed the procedure. He had Tommy John surgery on April 24, and is coming up on the anniversary.
Billingsley said he was hitting 90-92 mph and threw roughly 40 pitches in three simulated innings in his most recent mound outing at Camelback Ranch, and that his rehab starts will include a porgression of him pitching longer in each successive game.
It is conceivable he could return to the Dodgers by early May.
"It's getting close. I'm just going to start working and prepare for each [rehab] start like it was the regular season," Billingsley said. "But I'll work on things too, using these starts at my spring training."
This weekend will be a busy one for the Quakes. Josh Beckett, on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion, starts Friday night for Rancho Cucamonga and will likely be activated for either next Wednesday's finale against the Tigers or Friday's opener in Arizona.
Brian Wilson, on the DL with nerve irritation in his right elbow, threw a bullpen session on Thursday and will pitch for the Quakes on Saturday.