How good is Chad Billingsley without his curveball?
He was OK on Saturday afternoon in a Triple-A game against the Cleveland Indians at Camelback Ranch. Facing live hitters for the first time since he bruised the index finger on his right hand eight days ago, Billingsley threw 92 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two runs, walking four and striking out seven. He threw one wild pitch and no curves.
More importantly, Billingsley reported no discomfort after the start. Can he start against the San Francisco Giants 10 days from now?
“As long as there’s no setbacks, yeah,” Billingsley said. “I’m planning to be ready.”
The right-hander said throwing a curveball still bothers him because he uses a “spiked” grip. The resulting pressure on his finger causes the nail to “dig in” toward the finger and he won’t try throwing a curve until his next bullpen session. There’s no guarantee it will be ready April 2, his first scheduled start of the season.
The takeaway from Saturday’s game was that Billingsley can have success even without a pitch he threw less than 3 percent of the time last year (per FanGraphs). If he doesn’t throw a single curveball against the Giants it won’t be a first for Billingsley, who noted that his other go-to off-speed pitch, a changeup, “has been doing really well for me lately.”
Billingsley will get another exhibition start, likely on March 28 either in Rancho Cucamonga against the Single-A Quakes or in Anaheim against the Angels.