GLENDALE AZ – Chad Billingsley has pitched long enough to know a level of soreness is perpetually associated with the job.
After undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last April, the trick now is differentiating between the the good kind of sore and bad.
Billingsley was confronted with that challenge Saturday after a 30-pitch session off the mound that included some curve balls. It’s the first time he’s thrown breaking balls off the mound since since surgery, and he understandably felt some soreness afterward.
His mind, though, began playing some tricks on him.
“Obviously I was a little worried how it was going to react,” Billingsley said. “I thought I was going to wake up really stiff.”
Instead he awoke Sunday morning feeling fine.
It was a poignant reminder not to overreact, that soreness is simply part of the pitching equation.
Especially after throwing 30 consecutive pitches – including hard breaking balls – for the first time since major surgery.
“You almost forget what it’s like to throw,” Billingsley said.
And that even reconstructive surgery doesn’t protect him from the normal aches and pains of pitching.
That is a process Billingsley is still coping with.
“You expect yourself to feel perfect, it’s a new ligament or tendon and you kind of expect it to be fine all the time and not have a problem,” Billingsley said. “So anytime you feel soreness you’re like ‘something;s wrong’ You have that on the back of your mind after having surgery.”
To help clear that mental hurdle Billingsley communicates with the Dodgers medical staff, their feedback helping him sort the inevitable discomfort from the alarming.
“What soreness is normal and what’s not normal,” he said.
What he felt Saturday after his bullpen session was to be expected, and the fact he woke up feeling fine a day later simply affirmation.
“You just have to get used to throwing again,” he said.
Billingsley is scheduled to do some light throwing on Sunday and expects another 30-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.