Dodgers’ Chad Billingsley is roughed up in final spring start
PHOENIX — On the day the Dodgers broke camp, Chad Billingsley served up two home runs in the first three innings of a 6-2 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
His earned-run average ballooned to 5.91 in what was his final tuneup for the regular season, but Billingsley didn’t look or sound concerned.
“This spring, I’m very, very happy with,” he said. “My curveball was very good. My fastball wasn’t getting hit too much. My changeup was outstanding.”
So how does he explain the results?
“The thing I’ve been getting hurt with is my cutter,” he said.
Because of the slight alterations he made to his delivery this spring, Billingsley said he has encountered trouble with his arm slot when throwing the pitch. He said he threw the pitch with greater frequency to regain his feel for it, which contributed to his unsightly statistics.
“It’s spring training, you’re working on things,” he said.
Manager Don Mattingly was less certain. Mattingly was vague when asked what he could expect from Billingsley, who will start Friday in the Dodgers’ second game of the regular season.
“The season’s going to tell us what’s going on,” Mattingly said. “Spring’s not always the best indicator. We’ve seen guys with great springs come into the season and it goes horrible. We’ve seen guys have horrible springs, you think, ‘This guy’s lost it,’ he starts the season on fire and you’re going, ‘Where’d this come from?’
“If he feels good about his mechanics and where it’s going, it’s a good sign.”
Catcher A.J. Ellis raved about Billingsley’s changeup. Ellis recalled how former Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus once told him that the changeup would eventually become Billingsley’s best off-speed pitch. Ellis was skeptical.
“He’s probably going to be proven right,” Ellis said. “That is a nasty pitch right now. He can throw it any time, righties or lefties.”
Billingsley has been working on developing a changeup since the Dodgers drafted him in 2003, but it wasn’t part of his arsenal until last year.
Billingsley might have added a changeup and lost his cutter, but he doesn’t view himself as a fundamentally different pitcher.
“I’m still the same pitcher, attack you with my fastball, curveball’s my out pitch,” he said. “I’m not going to become a crafty righty.”
Left-hander Ted Lilly was the only player to suffer an injury during spring training that will force him to start the regular season on the disabled list. Lilly already appears to be recovered from a stiff neck and is expected to skip only one start.
The two other players who will be sidelined on opening day were already DL-bound at the start of camp — starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa, who had reconstructive elbow surgery last year, and reliever Blake Hawksworth, who had two minor elbow operations in January.
“I don’t think anybody’s been banged up too much,” outfielder Matt Kemp said. “Nothing out of the usual. Couple of tweaks here and there. We’re coming in healthy.”
That wasn’t the case last year, when the Dodgers had five players go down in camp, including their fifth starter (Jon Garland), starting third baseman (Casey Blake) and starting left fielder (Jay Gibbons).
The Dodgers drew 121,769 to their 15 spring-training home games at Camelback Ranch, an average of 8,118 per game. That is a significant increase from last year, when they drew an average of 6,874. … Edinson Volquez was selected the San Diego Padres’ opening-day starter and will face Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on April 5 at Petco Park. … Nathan Eovaldi won the Jim and Dearie Mulvey Award as the Dodgers’ top rookie in spring training. Eovaldi was 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 152/3 innings.