Chad Billingsley will start Thursday in Rancho Cucamonga.

Chad BillingsleyIt’s not every Opening Day that a Single-A baseball team gets an 80-game winner to start its first game of the season.

That will be the case Thursday, when Chad Billingsley takes the hill for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Billingsley, one of four players on the Dodgers’ disabled list to start the season, said he hasn’t been given an innings limit for the start. That may still come, but the right-hander said he isn’t restricted in any way two weeks after he bruised the index finger on his right hand doing a bunting drill.

“There’s no pain, it’s just a matter of getting a better feel for (the curveball),” Billingsley said. “I’m just trying to find the consistent release point to do what you want with it.”

Billingsley was initially bothered every time he threw the curveball, and no other pitch, because he uses a “spiked” grip with a raised middle finger. Even though he only threw the curve on less than three percent of his pitches last season, Billingsley considers it “my go-to pitch with two strikes.”

He threw the pitch without pain in a minor-league rehab game on Friday, but without ideal command and consistency.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is targeting April 10 in San Diego for Billingsley’s first major-league start.

The added time also gives the Dodgers time to figure out what to do with erstwhile starters Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, whom Mattingly has no plans for inserting into the fifth slot in the rotation. For now, both are in the bullpen. The Dodgers have nine days to figure out whether they want to keep them there.

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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.