Billingsley improving but running out of time.

With 27 games left in the season, the Dodgers are no longer focused on winning series or gaining moral victories. Time is running out.

Likewise, it was good news Monday when Chad Billingsley said that the pain in his right elbow was “definitely getting a lot better.” But he still is not pain-free, still isn’t cleared to throw, and still isn’t any closer to returning to the Dodgers’ rotation.

That’s why it’s becoming so hard to predict if or when Billingsley will pitch again this season.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get a quick answer, other than all of a sudden he’s not feeling anything,” manager Don Mattingly said. “Even if he starts throwing, the likelihood of seeing him again gets lower and lower.”

Billingsley hasn’t been allowed to throw in the 10 days since he re-aggravated the elbow injury in the Dodgers’ 11-4 win against the Marlins on August 24. He received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Thursday and is still contemplating receiving another.

In the meantime his course of rehab remains the same.

“Treatment, more treatment, and some ice,” Billingsley said.

If that continues, Mattingly will have to consider using Billingsley out of the bullpen if he comes back before the end of the season –though even that isn’t certain at this point.

“There is instructional league going on and things like that, where you can try to build up [a pitcher’s innings workload] that way, and at the end of the season you think a guy would be fairly built up,” Mattingly said. “But yeah, it kind of moves in that direction. The longer a guy can’t throw, the longer it takes to come back.

“If we had another month, we’d say he could be ready in October.”

Billingsley has made 29 relief appearances in 217 career games. His only relief appearance the last four seasons came when Joe Torre temporarily demoted Billingsley to the bullpen on Sept. 18, 2009. It didn’t go well;he allowed four hits and two earned runs in 1.2 innings against the Atlanta Braves. Billingsley hasn’t pitched regularly out of the bullpen since the first half of the 2007 season.

“If he can help you enough to throw an inning here, an inning there, that would be good,” Mattingly said.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.