Ah, and so it goes. The constant watch. The crossing of fingers and hopeful talk. Or as Vin Scully put it, “the sword of Damocles” that hangs over Chad Billingsley and his elbow with each outing.
Billingsley elected not to have reconstructive Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in the off-season, instead attempting to let the minor ligament tear heal as well as possible and strengthen his arm and elbow.
There is risk involved, but Billingsley has reported no setbacks in his bid to return to form. He made his third spring appearance Thursday in the Dodgers’ 11-11 tie with the Rangers at Camelback Ranch, and the results were mixed.
Billingsley walked his first two batters, then retired nine consecutive Rangers, and then was charged with two runs in the fourth after allowing a pair of singles and a walk.
It’s hardly unusual for a pitcher to have an uneven outing in the spring, particularly this early, and afterward Billingsley told reporters in Phoenix that’s all it was.
“It’s still early,” Billingsley said. “Each time out you just work on something different ... and your last couple of starts is when you start putting it all together and getting ready for the regular season.
More important, Billingsley said there is no elbow discomfort. Honest.
“I’m having no problems bouncing back,” he said. “I’m throwing all my pitches.”
Of course, the jury may remain out for some time as his elbow is continually pushed and he’s carefully observed to see whether he has lost any velocity. For his part, Billingsley said he’s not concerned whether management or anyone else believes the injury is officially behind him.
“It doesn’t matter what they think,” he said. “It’s what I think. And I know how I’m feeling.”
Offensively Thursday, the Dodgers collected 15 hits against Texas. Both Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig had two hits. Gordon batted leadoff and also stole two bases and scored twice.
Overall, at the plate, he looked like the guy the Dodgers hoped to see last year. Defensively, he still looked like the guy they did see.
Gordon is batting .286 (four for 14), though he does have an encouraging six walks. Last year for the Dodgers he hit .228 with a .280 on-base percentage.
Puig, the Cuban phenom, had a pair of hits to raise his spring average to .423. The Dodgers tied the game 11-11 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a three-run homer from outfielder Matt Angle off ex-Dodger Josh Lindblom.