MIAMI -- Chad Billingsley, who is starting tonight against the Florida Marlins, has no explanation for why he’s still searching for his first win.
He thinks his fastball and curveball are better than they were last September, when he was 3-1 with a 2.59 earned-run average. He’s added a changeup his arsenal that he’s throwing for strikes.
“I can’t explain it,” Billingsley said of his 0-4 record and 6.53 ERA.
Billingsley has struck out 32 batters in 20 2/3 innings and he punched out a career-high 12 batters in six innings in his last start, a loss to Arizona in which he gave up five runs and six hits.
“Teams are finding ways to score runs against me,” he said. “Sometimes I find myself trying to do too much instead of trusting my ability.”
But pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said that in Billingsley’s recent starts, the 23-year-old right-hander has done a better job of not allowing his sense of urgency to affect his mechanics.
“He’s made a lot of improvement from where he was at the end of the spring,” Honeycutt said of the tendency Billingsley showed in the exhibition season of letting his left shoulder fly open.
Being scratched from his first start because of the threat of rain delayed the implementation of the necessary improvements, Honeycutt said.
Manager Joe Torre said the inconsistencies in mechanics were responsible for inconsistencies in Billingsley’s velocity. His fastball topped out in the low 90s at the start of the season, but has been clocked in the mid-90s in recent starts.
Honeycutt is particularly pleased with how Billingsley is keeping his body over the rubber longer, which allows him to throw his 12-to-6 curveball with greater efficiency.
That type of curveball, Honeycutt noted, is particularly sensitive to variations in the pitching motion.
“I just have to keep going out there and doing what I’ve been doing,” Billingsley said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have 30-plus starts.”
Torre said he has thought about moving into the Dodgers’ front office when his three-year term as manager expires at the end of the 2010 season.
“I think this would be a tough game to totally walk away from,” he said. “You hope that you can be useful.”
The manager challenged the view that he sees his move to Los Angeles as something temporary.
“It was a big change moving out West, but I’m over that,” he said. “If you ever think something’s temporary, you’re not going to be able to do your job. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be a total surprise if you’re out of there. But I think to do your job, you have to be totally committed.”
Jason Schmidt threw to live batters for the second time in five days and, according to Torre, could be on his way to a minor league rehabilitation assignment by the weekend. But Schmidt said he didn’t feel he was ready.
“I’m still working on getting some control,” said Schmidt, who threw 78 pitches, including warmups. “I’d like to have some sort of control before I go anywhere.”
Schmidt is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Friday.
Andy LaRoche, who played six games with double-A Jacksonville to start his minor league rehab assignment, has been sent to triple-A Las Vegas. LaRoche hit .318 in 22 at-bats with Jacksonville and started at third base in five games.
Left-handed pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney, who entered the series one for 16, will start at first base on Thursday. Torre wants to get Sweeney extra at-bats.