Ted Lilly would rather relieve for the Dodgers than start somewhere else.

Ted  LillyIf Don Mattingly decides to resolve his eight-starter dilemma by asking for volunteers to move to the bullpen, Ted Lilly might be the first to raise his hand.

“I want to be a part of what’s going on here first and foremost,” Lilly said Tuesday, when the Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. “I feel like I’m capable of being a successful starter. … The objective’s still the same: Get the hitter out. You make pitches, pitch well, and it kind of defines your role.

“I would prefer [pitching out of the bullpen here] other than go somewhere else and start, yes, but I would like to start.”

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Chad Billingsley is healthy and ready to join the Dodgers’ rotation.

Chad BillingsleyChad Billingsley has every reason to be optimistic.

After he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last September, his next throw was limited to 50 mph on a closely monitored radar gun. Within months, gradually increasing his velocity and his number of throws, Billingsley was delivering pitches at 90 mph.

“You have these certain points where we’re going to test the ligament, testing our arm,” he said. “Each time I passed with flying colors.”

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Dodgers spring training preview: Starting pitchers.

Hyun-Jin RyuForget having the best 1-2 starting combination in baseball. Ned Colletti clearly intended to put together the majors’ best 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 staff this winter.

Mission accomplished.

When the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday, they present a puzzling situation that only time can solve. Chad Billingsley hopes time can heal the torn ligament in his elbow, not season-ending Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly hopes he can pitch like a legitimate fifth starter, having not pitched in the majors since last May because of injuries. He, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang may have to hope that Colletti can find a desirable destination for their talents outside of L.A.

If healthy, it’s hard to imagine this group staying together. Otherwise, the Dodgers are left with the first eight-man rotation in major-league history, and wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome to what promises to be an interesting camp.

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Poll: Which Dodger will have the biggest bounceback in 2013?

One of my favorite stats from 2012 was this: Eight major-league teams used 50 or more players last season. Most fell into the category of underachievers, or at least underdogs: Boston (56), Toronto (54), Chicago Cubs (53), San Diego (53), Baltimore (52), Houston (50), Oakland (50) …

… And then there were the Dodgers, clocking in at an even 50 players. It was a combination of trades and injuries that brought the Dodgers to 50, all of which factored into their falling short of the playoffs, and left several players hungry for a big bounceback in 2013.

Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Ted Lilly are coming back from surgery. Chad Billingsley is coming back from an injury, at least the team hopes. Juan Uribe is Juan Uribe.

Who will rebound the most?

Update: Kemp to have surgery Friday.

Matt Kemp will have surgery on his left shoulder Friday and could be sidelined anywhere from six weeks to four months. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan Jobe Clinic.

If he misses four months, Kemp would be able to resume throwing and hitting in the first week of February 2013. That’s about three weeks before position players traditionally report for spring training. Kemp admitted he might not be ready to go from the start.

“Hopefully just clean (the shoulder) up,” Kemp said. “If they need to do more, they do more.”

Dodgers head athletic trainer Sue Falsone said that Kemp’s recovery time depends on the type of surgery. Debridement surgery is relatively minor and would allow Kemp to resume throwing 6 to 8 weeks afterward, while surgery to repair the torn labrum would require a four-month recovery period.

Kemp tore the labrum in his left shoulder when he crashed into the center-field wall at Coors Field wall on Aug. 28. He managed to play through the pain, hitting .367 with four home runs and nine RBIs in the season’s final eight games.

“If you MRI every guy out here,” Falsone said as the team fanned out around the field during batting practice, “eight out of 10 guys have a labral tear. It’s just a question of inflammation.”

Kemp said that his inflammation was bad enough that not having surgery wasn’t an option.

“It’s just something that needs to be done,” he said. “Of course I’m nervous. I’ve never had surgery before.”
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Billingsley: No setbacks in throwing program.

Chad Billingsley continues to make progress from a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.

The pitcher said Wednesday that he continues to throw from flat ground on back-to-back days, followed by one day of rest. He’s now able to make “about 35″ throws from up to 60 feet, and is on track to throw off a mound in “a couple weeks.”

It was initially feared that Billingsley might have to undergo Tommy John surgery,which would force him to miss all of the 2013 season. But as long as he continues to throw without pain, that seems less and less likely.

Billingsley improving, on track to throw Friday.

The possibility of Tommy John surgery is dimming for Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley, who was shut down for the season Sept. 5 with tearing in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (pitching) elbow.

Billingsley said he’s been doing daily forearm exercises without pain as part of his weightlifting routine for the last week. He will travel with the Dodgers on their upcoming road trip to Washington and Cincinnati starting Monday and, if he stays healthy, will start playing light catch in Cincinnati on Friday –four weeks from the time of his UCL injury.

“I’ll do that for a week or so,” Billingsley said. “If everything goes well with that, it’ll be a throwing program. If that goes well, I’ll be throwing to live hitters by mid-October.”

Billingsley said it’s to soon to know where he’ll face live hitters.

“It depends on where we are,” he said.

Chad Billingsley’s season is over.

Chad Billingsley was transferred to the 60-day disabled list Wednesday, ending his season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hinted yesterday that the right-hander could be shut down, so perhaps the best news of the day is that the “slight tearing” in the ulnar collateral ligament of Billingsley’s right elbow might not need surgery.

“There’s a chance, but from the time I had my first PRP [injection] it feels pretty good,” Billingsley said.

Billingsley had a second PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection Wednesday. If his recovery goes as well as anticipated, he can begin a throwing program in two weeks.

The Dodgers recalled Steven Rodriguez from Double-A Chattanooga. The 2012 second-round draft pick was 1-0 with five saves and a 0.92 ERA (2 ER/19.2 IP) in 21 combined relief appearances with Single-A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga.
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Mattingly doesn’t expect Billingsley to return this season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday that he is preparing as if Chad Billingsley will not return to pitch this season, either as a starter or a reliever.

“There’s really no time,” Mattingly said. “He just runs out of time. His chances are pretty far down at this point.”

Although that assessment is not coming out of nowhere, it’s the most grim outlook the manager has provided since Billingsley left his Aug. 24 start against Miami with pain in his right elbow. The pain hasn’t gone away, despite Billingsley receiving a PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injection last week. He is scheduled to have another injection tomorrow.

“I think he’s been feeling a little better lately,” Mattingly said. “We’re not talking about surgery or anything at this point.”

Billingsley was 6-0 with a 1.30 earned-run average in six starts before his fateful start against the Marlins. He is guaranteed 10 wins (10-9) for a sixth straight season, something only Cole Hamels has done among active National League pitchers.

The right-hander’s final numbers this season have been respectable on the whole –a 3.55 ERA, with a career-best 2.84 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Inconsistency remained his Achilles’ heel, however: In 10 wins, Billingsley had a 1.16 ERA and a microscopic 0.843 WHIP. In nine losses, those numbers ballooned to 6.89 and 1.717 respectively.

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.”

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