Chad Billingsley’s season is in jeopardy after MRI reveals torn flexor tendon in right elbow.

Chad Billingsley

Chad Billingsley made two rehab starts for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this season and didn’t make it out of the second inning in either appearance. (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Twitter)

Chad Billingsley‘s season is in jeopardy after an MRI scan Thursday revealed a partial tear of the flexor tendon in his right elbow.

Though surgery is commonly performed, Billingsley is planning to discuss his options with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache in the coming days before deciding on a course of action.

The prognosis for recovery from torn flexor tendon surgery varies greatly.
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Chad Billingsley tentatively scheduled to re-launch minor league rehab Saturday.

Chad BillingsleyDodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley called it a case of “déjà vu.”

If all goes well in his simulated game Tuesday, Billingsley said he will start a minor-league rehabilitation game on Saturday. The right-hander threw a 30-pitch simulated game Thursday and a bullpen outing Saturday. He got through both sessions without pain, which left him optimistic about making his first rehab start since April 6 on schedule.

“We’ll see once we get past Tuesday,” he said.

The options for Billingsley: Triple-A Albuquerque has a road game in Tacoma, Washington; Double-A Chattanooga has a road game in Pearl, Mississippi; Single-A Rancho Cucamonga has a home game against Bakersfield. The Dodgers have a road game in Colorado.

Billingsley thinks he’ll need five rehab starts before he’s cleared to pitch a major-league game.

“I’m just anxious to get back out there,” he said. “Through this whole process, I’ve had patience. Keep working. It can be very frustrating at times. It’s all part of the process.”
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Chad Billingsley takes a small step forward with 30-pitch bullpen session.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley lasted 1 1/3 innings in his only rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on April 6. (Associated Press photo)

Chad Billingsley threw 30 pitches off the bullpen mound Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

“Nice and easy,” he said. “Fastballs, changeups. I wasn’t trying to throw hard. It was nice and easy.”

Billingsley hadn’t been throwing for three weeks before last week in Miami, when he resumed playing catch off flat ground. Tuesday’s bullpen session was only his second since his three-week break.

Because of that, Billingsley said he was told to dial back after hitting 82 mph on the radar gun.

“I’m mostly focused on building endurance,” he said.

Billingsley is basically re-starting the rehab process that preceded his only rehabilitation start a month ago for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. During that game, he felt pain in his elbow, forcing him to essentially re-start a throwing program that he started in the off-season.

The 29-year-old right-hander hasn’t begun throwing curveballs yet, but might do so off flat ground next week. That will happen sometime during the Dodgers’ 10-day, three-city road trip that begins Friday in Phoenix.

Billingsley, who had Tommy John surgery in April 2013, admitted that re-starting the process has been “deflating.”

“When you’re doing so well throwing in a rehab game, I’m four more outings away from being back,” he said. “It happens. It’s definitely deflating. You start getting so close, pull the reins back, and something happens. It’s tough. Got to go through that whole rehab process, treatments and everything. Building back there again.”

Daily Distractions: Fans’ outrage toward Dodgers, Time Warner now includes an online petition.

Vin Scully
A fan petition calling on the Dodgers and Time Warner cable to “broker a deal” with local cable providers and “stop the defacto blackout” of the club on local television has 491 signatures on the website FansRising.com.

The campaign is planning additional action to raise attention to the issue, according to a press release from Fans Rising. Comments left by fans reveal that multiple petition signers are elderly fans no longer able to attend games who can’t watch on television.

“I saw my first Dodger game at Ebbets Field in 1938 and have been a faithful fan ever since,” wrote Doris Schalk. “I am now 84 and unable to drive, so don’t get to many games anymore, but being able to watch them all these years has been a god-send. The radio guys are very good – BUT I miss my Vin AND my Dodgers.”

Some bullet points for a Hump Day:
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Miguel Olivo joins the Dodgers, TIm Federowicz optioned to Triple-A as Dodgers shuffle catchers.

Miguel Olivo

Miguel Olivo is a veteran of 1,116 major-league games, but none since June of last year. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have had some wiggle room with their roster for at least a couple weeks now. From the time Chad Billingsley exited his first (and still only) rehabilitation start on April 6, it’s been less and less likely that the right-hander would return within the first two months of the season.

Wednesday, the Dodgers formally acknowledged that fact. Billingsley was transfered to the 60-day disabled list and the Dodgers selected the contract of catcher Miguel Olivo to the 40-man roster.

Rather than continue to stash Olivo in Triple-A Albuquerque, where he’s batting .390 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games, the Dodgers recalled Olivo and optioned catcher Tim Federowicz to Albuquerque for the second time this season.

Olivo, 35, hasn’t appeared in a major-league game since June of last year with the Miami Marlins. He showed well in spring training, batting .263 (5 for 19) in nine games as a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract. When he was returned to the minors, Olivo requested his release.

Ultimately Olivo bid his time at Triple-A and was rewarded for his patience.

Federowicz was batting .109 (5 for 46) with two doubles in 13 games. Neither he nor Drew Butera (.190) provided much offense in the absence of starter A.J. Ellis, but Butera is out of options.

Ellis, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee April 7, is expected back in mid-May.

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley has platelet rich plasma injection.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on April 6. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow Wednesday morning, designed to help expedite healing following a diagnosis of tendinitis. He’s been shut down from throwing for 5 to 7 days.

Tomorrow will be one year to the day since Billingsley underwent Tommy John surgery. The 29-year-old right-hander made great strides through spring training without any setbacks and started a rehab game April 6 for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. However, Billingsley lasted just 1 ⅓ innings in the game before the scar tissue in his elbow snapped.

Billingsley said his last bullpen session, seven days ago in San Francisco, went well.

“It was improving, starting to feel better,” he said. “This is icing.”

Billingsley said the tendinitis was an expected part of the rehab process.

“The way (Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache) explained it, it’s just stretching out,” the pitcher said.

It’s possible that Billingsley will accompany the Dodgers on their next road trip, a nine-day journey through Minneapolis, Miami and Washington D.C. beginning next Tuesday.

Chad Billingsley’s right elbow is ‘doing well’ after scare at Rancho Cucamonga.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings Sunday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. (Associated Press photo)

Chad Billingsley threw a curveball Sunday and heard — and felt — a crack in his right elbow.

“When you crack your back or your neck, that’s kind of what it felt like,” he said.

Billingsley motioned for a trainer and left the game immediately. He was supposed to throw two innings in his first rehabilitation start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and fell two outs short of the goal.

The 29-year-old pitcher, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last April, was worried. “I threw a curveball and thought ‘oh my God.’”

After meeting with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Billingsley was reassured that the sensation was caused by scar tissue breaking up, a normal part of the recovery process. The doctor didn’t even send Billingsley in for an MRI exam.

Tuesday, Billingsley was back in the Dodgers clubhouse. He still hasn’t been cleared for his next bullpen session or rehab start but doesn’t think it will be long.

“It’s actually doing well right now,” Billingsley said. “It feels like normal second-day soreness.”

The original schedule called for Billingsley to make five rehab starts. That hasn’t changed, but a potential return in early May is on hold for now.

“Whenever he gives me the OK, I’ll start back up,” he said.

Daily Distractions: Chad Billingsley’s best-case scenario is still in play.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley still hasn’t thrown a cut fastball off a mound since having Tommy John surgery last year. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Chad Billingsley sat at his locker at Camelback Ranch on Friday, demonstrating the difference between his slider and his cut fastball with an imaginary baseball.

One pitch involved a twisting motion that began with his fingers and shot up his forearm to his elbow. The other pitch did not — just a flicking motion with his wrist, nothing violent or severe.

Yet he’s been allowed to throw the former pitch, his slider. He still hasn’t thrown the latter, his cut fastball, and isn’t sure when he will. That’s the bad news.

The good news for Billingsley is that he can count on one hand the number of benchmarks still to cross off in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in April 2013. He still hasn’t thrown a cutter off a mound and he still hasn’t faced live hitting or pitched in a game.

Even that will change soon. The plan calls for Billingsley to throw to minor-league hitters at Camelback Ranch sometime next week, around the time the Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia. When he throws “depends on whether I get four or five days’ rest” after his next bullpen session Monday.

Billingsley reported no setbacks one day after throwing a 36-pitch bullpen session Thursday. He hasn’t had any major setbacks yet. The best-case, late-April/early-May return to the majors that Billingsley projected  at the start of camp is still in play.

Some bullet points for a Pi Day:
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Daily Distractions: Chad Billingsley will try to take a big step forward tomorrow.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley will attempt to throw curveballs off a mound for the first time tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

When the Dodgers needed to add shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena to their 40-man roster last week, they faced an important decision. Ultimately, Justin Sellers was designated for assignment to open a roster spot, but the Dodgers could easily have placed Chad Billingsley on the 60-day disabled list instead.

“We’re not prepared yet to set a timetable of 60 days for Chad,” general manager Ned Colletti said at the time.

That could change soon.

Tomorrow, Billingsley is scheduled to throw curveballs off a mound for the first time since having Tommy John surgery last April. The right-hander has been throwing curveballs off flat ground and fastballs off the mound since camp opened. However, the stress on his surgically repaired elbow — specifically, the ulnar collateral ligament that was transplanted from his left forearm — has been relatively light.

The curveball, Billingsley said Wednesday, “puts the most torque on the elbow.” At least one study has produced a different conclusion (specifically, that the fastball and curveball require the same amount of elbow torque), but the fact that he hasn’t attempted to throw the pitch with full force yet makes it a new test.

If he passes the test and emerges pain-free, Billingsley said he’ll be cleared to throw sliders. Adding the slider would give Billingsley the full arsenal he needs to face live batters in a rehab game.

In his last bullpen session Tuesday, Billingsley said his fastball topped out at 87 mph — the fastest he’s thrown the pitch since camp began. His fastball has was topping out around 95 mph prior to the surgery, but comparing games to bullpen sessions is unfair.

“When you’re throwing bullpens it’s hard to go max effort and hit a really high velocity,” Billingsley said. “You’ve got to have adrenaline, the hitter’s presence in the batter’s box.”

Billingsley recently said that, in a best-case scenario, he would be able to start a minor-league game by the end of camp.

We’ll know tomorrow whether or not that scenario is still realistic.

Some bullet points for a Rare Disease Day:
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Daily Distractions: Because it’s never too soon, sizing up the Dodgers’ 2015 rotation.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee will attend his first spring training this weekend. Will he be in the Dodgers’ rotation in 2015? (Associated Press photo)


Today, we look ahead to next fall because, well, why not?

Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and Chad Billingsley — if the Dodgers decline his option — will become free agents after this season. Do the Dodgers have two pitchers in their system who would be ready to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation by 2015?

Maybe. Zach Lee continues to be ranked as a top-100 prospect with middle-of-the-rotation potential. Ross Stripling could be closer than Lee to reaching the majors, depending on who you talk to in the organization. Julio Urias is 17, so probably not. The jury’s still out on the potential of Matt Magill, Seth Rosin and a few others.

The jury’s still out on all of them, actually, since you simply never know how much time a prospect needs to reach his potential. And if the Dodgers’ transactions log over the past two years indicates nothing else, it’s that they prefer proven performance to potential.

So who’s in the next wave of free-agent starters? The list could include Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson, Homer Bailey and Jon Lester. Even if Scherzer gets a big extension from the Detroit Tigers, as expected, that’s still a strong class — stronger than this year’s, certainly. All of the Dodgers’ free-agent decisions this year were made with potential 2015 free agents in mind. (That principle applies every winter.)

In the linked piece, FanGraphs.com’s Dave Cameron concludes that Scherzer, Lester and Bailey are the most likely to re-sign long-term extensions. That potentially leaves Shields and Masterson as the cream of the 2015 crop. Depending on their health and performance in 2014, they would almost certainly be the best fourth starters in baseball if they joined the Dodgers.

Cameron predicts that Shields could command a five- or six-year contract “and probably close to the $25 million AAV that many of the better pitchers have attained recently.” Shields turned 32 in December. Despite his career WAR of 28.0 in eight seasons, that’s still quite a bit of risk to take on.

But so is giving the job to a prospect.

Taken together, who do you like in the group to fill out the 2015 rotation?

Some bullet points for a Tuesday morning:
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