The Los Angeles Dodgers have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into their team, especially in their rotation where Zack Greinke was signed to the largest contract ever for a right-handed pitcher this winter. However, Chad Billingsley, who was enjoying the best stretch of his career last year before being diagnosed with his injury, could be a key factor for the Dodgers this season one way or another.
Billingsley is a big question mark this season as he tries to recover from a partially torn right elbow ligament. He opted to stay away from Tommy John surgery and chose to be treated with platelet-rich plasma injections. If healthy, he would be the number three or four starter depending on how Josh Beckett performs. Having a pitcher with Billingsley’s potential in the number four slot speaks to how much talent the Dodgers have brought in in the last year.
Billingsley will have to prove he is healthy this spring. Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ryu Hyun-jin, and Ted Lilly will be looking for rotation spots as well. There has been plenty of talk about the Dodgers using their surplus pitching to obtain some missing pieces for their roster or bolster a farm system that has been depleted over the last year to bring in guys like Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez. However, the Dodgers won’t do anything until they know Billingsley’s elbow can handle the stress of pitching in game situations and that can only be accomplished this spring in games.
There is also the issue that aside from Greinke there are questions about every pitchers health and/or effectiveness. Beckett has clearly lost a little zip from his fastball. Clayton Kershaw, while great, has dealt with injury issues in the past. Ted Lilly is coming off of an injury plagued season and will probably need extra time before he is fully ready to go. Ryu Hyun-jin has no MLB experience. Capuano had a great year last year but will he be able to repeat that? Aaron Harang is healthy but his production can fluctuate wildly.
Right now, the Dodgers don’t know what to expect from Billingsley. Some reports are saying his arm could blow up at any point and require Tommy John surgery like what happened to Brandon Beachy of the Atlanta Braves. Other reports, especially from his agent, Dave Stewart, say that he is doing well and should be ready to go for spring training.
No matter who says what the real evidence will only come forth in game scenarios. Until the Dodgers have a true gauge on Billingsley’s health and the health of the other pitchers on the staff, they won’t make a move if they are smart. Just ask the New York Yankees how having too much pitching is never a reality. Last season they traded A.J. Burnett and then saw C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte miss time to injury and Michael Pineda blow out his shoulder. Yes, it is true what they say, you really can never have enough pitching.