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Chad Billingsley’s lesson on trying to be pitcher perfect

Chad Billingsley said he felt he fixed the problems with his mechanics in the six weeks the Dodgers spent in Arizona for spring training.

But he said that a final tuneup in Los Angeles last week is what got his head right.

Billingsley, who will make his first start of the season in the Dodgers’ series finale in Pittsburgh on Thursday, said that being roughed up by the Angels in the Freeway Series reinforced a message that Manager Joe Torre has been trying to deliver to him.

“Pitchers, we have the tendency to give hitters too much credit,” Billingsley said. “There are times I try to be perfect when I don’t have to be.”

His habit of nibbling instead of trusting his stuff cost him against the Angels.

He gave up five runs in the third inning of that game. A grand slam by Kendry Morales was preceded by three walks and a hit.

“I beat myself in that game,” Billingsley said.

Billingsley went into the Angels game with a spring earned-run average of 1.84; he exited with an ERA of 4.67.

Though he said he was looking forward to taking the mound Thursday, Billingsley downplayed the idea that he had to pitch well to regain the confidence he lost in a brutal second half last year.

Torre said he wanted to see players who had tough 2009 seasons — among them, Billingsley, Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin — to start strongly this year.

“The thing you hope doesn’t happen is guys get off to a bad start and, all of sudden, start losing their patience,” Torre said.

Troncoso returns

Ramon Troncoso said that missing opening day felt weird — but that he felt even weirder being back at PNC Park.

“I want to be with her every second,” Troncoso said.

Troncoso was talking about his 3-day-old daughter, Isabella Rei, who was born Sunday morning.

Soon after the Dodgers landed in Pittsburgh early Sunday morning, Troncoso received word from his mother-in-law that his wife, Erica, was in labor.

Troncoso immediately booked the next flight to Ontario.

During the hours he waited at the airport to board the flight, Troncoso learned that his wife gave birth to a girl weighing more than six pounds.

He was by his wife’s side shortly after noon. She was holding their child, their first.

“It was very emotional,” said Troncoso, who admitted to crying.

Because there wasn’t a television in the hospital room, Troncoso said he had to follow the Dodgers’ opening-day loss to the Pirates on his mobile phone.

“It felt strange missing the first game, but there are 161 more,” Troncoso said.

Short hops

As part of a plan to rest him on day games after night games, Manny Ramirez will get a day off in the series finale today. Torre said he is also thinking about resting Casey Blake…. Fifth starter Charlie Haeger will take his first turn in the rotation on Sunday in Miami. Opening-day starter Vicente Padilla will start Saturday on regular rest. “I want to get him out there as soon as possible,” Torre said of Padilla, who gave up seven runs and six hits in 41/3 innings in his first start.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez


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