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 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.
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.
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.”
Two injured pitchers nudged forward in their recoveries Sunday:
Chad Billingsley is considering having a second platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in his right elbow. Manager Don Mattingly said that the right-hander “seemed a little bit optimistic,” but cautioned that there is still no timetable for Billingsley to resume throwing because he isn’t pain-free.
Ted Lilly, meanwhile, threw 20 pitches off the bullpen mound Saturday and reported no pain afterward. Lilly’s next step has yet to be determined, though Mattingly mentioned the possibility of a simulated game if Lilly continues to throw without pain. “I’m not quite sure where all this is going,” Mattingly said. “His shoulder feels good … his back feels better.”
Conventional baseball wisdom holds that pitching takes on greater importance in the playoffs than the regular season, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has lived it.
When he was the New York Yankees’ batting coach from 2004-07, he recalled, “(Robinson) Cano was hitting ninth. It was dangerous. But those clubs didn’t win.”
Mattingly believes the reason was simple.
“We didn’t pitch enough,” he said. “Playoffs are a whole different animal. Short series are always tough, even a seven-game.”
Assuming the Dodgers qualify, who will begin the playoffs in the starting rotation? Mattingly ducked the question for a second straight day Sunday and he can for the moment, with only five healthy starters on the active roster. He won’t be able to if/when Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Joe Blanton, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are all healthy.
This could be the manager’s biggest decision all season, if not in his brief career.
Ted Lilly and Matt Guerrier were scheduled to continue their rehab assignments by pitching tomorrow and Wednesday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Lilly’s outing is in jeopardy, however, after manager Don Mattingly said the left-handed pitcher “didn’t look real good” after a workout Sunday morning.
“I’m thinking Teddy’s not going to make his start,” Mattingly said. “He felt something … I think in his back or something.”
Lilly’s rehabilitation has been up and down. Initially bothered by elbow stiffness, he didn’t face live hitters in a game between May 23 and a July 29 rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. After a brief setback, Lilly tossed one inning for the Quakes on Aug. 14 and two more innings two days later.
He hasn’t faced live hitting since, so if Lilly is able to return to the Dodgers before the end of the season, it will be out of the bullpen.
Chad Billingsley‘s inflamed right elbow has landed the right-hander on the disabled list for the second time in the past two months.
If he misses the minimum 15 days, Billingsley will miss two starts and face the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 11. Billingsley had won six straight decisions before re-aggravating the injury Friday night against the Miami Marlins. He lasted just 2 1/3 innings before coming out of the game.
It’s not how the Dodgers drew it up, but the move helps make room for newcomer Josh Beckett on the active roster. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Beckett, who was scheduled to start today for the Red Sox, will make his Dodger debut Monday in Colorado.
The Dodgers also optioned Alex Castellanos to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday, thereby clearing room for new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and infielder Nick Punto on the active roster. James Loney was the only player on the active roster who was traded to Boston.
“If there’s somebody out there in the next week or so, we’ll take a shot at it, as always,” general manager Ned Colletti told reporters at a press conference announcing today’s trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.
Perhaps the biggest x-factor is injuries.
Colletti said that he was motivated to acquire Punto after Jerry Hairston Jr. was sidelined for the rest of the season due to a hip labrum injury that will require surgery. Chad Billingsley‘s second bout with elbow inflammation underscored the need to acquire another starting pitcher in Beckett. Dee Gordon, Matt Guerrier and Ted Lilly are all currently out on rehab assignments, but there’s no guarantee that any of them will be back healthy before the end of the season.
Jerry Sands‘ walk-off single drove in pinch-runner Elian Herrera in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Dodgers (11-8-4) to the win before 5,816 at Camelback Ranch. [box score]
Sands’ single was just his sixth hit in 38 Cactus League at-bats, and it came at a critical time as the roster is trimmed in advance of opening day.
“I’ve been feeling pretty brutal just trying to work on some things,” Sands said. “Changes here and there, just trying to get comfortable now after making some changes, all kinds of stuff. Just trying to get rhythm and timing after making changes is the hardest thing.
With two strikes against him, Sands lined a single into left field that Kosuke Fukudome could not field cleanly, allowing Herrera to score easily from second base. It was only the sixth hit by the Dodgers all afternoon, as starter Chad Billingsley allowed 11 hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work.
All of those hits were singles, however, and Chicago left nine runners on base. Billingsley also walked two and struck out five.
Dee Gordon stole two bases, giving him a major league-leading 10 this spring. Andre Ethier‘s fifth-inning double was his eighth, tying him for the major league lead with a pair of luminaries, Lorenzo Cain and Matt Carpenter.
A few more notes: