Chad Billingsley’s comeback finally leads to Tommy John surgery

Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery.
(Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

That felt inevitable, but no less damning.

Chad Billingsley tried to buck the odds, tried to do it his way, but in the end all he did was delay a season-ending surgery.

The Dodgers announced Tuesday that Billingsley would undergo Tommy John elbow surgery, be lost for the rest of the year and probably be out until at least April of next season.

Billingsley was shut down last August with a partially torn elbow ligament, the type of injury that typically leads to Tommy John surgery. Billingsley, however, wanted to try and rehab the elbow and hoped platelet-rich plasma injections would make a difference in the healing.


The Dodgers and Billingsley proceeded cautiously, and the early results were at least encouraging. Slowed by a spring fingernail issue, Billingsley was 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts.

But after elbow pain returned in his last start and did not abate in the ensuing off days, he was placed on the disabled list Sunday. Dr. Neal ElAttrache is scheduled to perform the surgery Wednesday. Typical recovery time from Tommy John is now placed at approximately 12 months.

Even though the Dodgers always recognized this was a strong possibility, their rotation is in shambles. Zack Greinke is out with a broken collarbone, Chris Capuano with a strained calf and Ted Lilly is scheduled to make his first start in nearly a year Wednesday as he comes back from shoulder surgery.

The Dodgers could go the “what-if” route with Billingsley, but to no avail. If he’d elected to have the normal surgery at the time of the injury, he might be returning at the end of this season for a possible stretch drive.

Yet a player has to agree to any surgery, and this was the route Billingsley elected to follow.

To replace Billingsley in the rotation, the Dodgers were forced to call up Stephen Fife from triple-A Albuquerque. He will likely have to remain in the rotation for another two starts until Capuano is eligible to come off the DL.