Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle and Andre Ethier belted two home runs. But when Ethier was asked to name the Dodgers' star Monday in the team's 11-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, he replied: Chad Billingsley.
"The marquee guy of this game was Billingsley," Ethier said of the right-hander who limited the Giants to one run in seven innings and struck out 11 to boost his record to 2-0.
"He was the guy who gave us a chance," Ethier said. Giants starter Randy Johnson (0-2) "came out throwing so strongly in the beginning and Billingsley kept us right there."
The victory provided at least one day of reassuring stability for a Dodgers team whose starting pitching is frequently debated, especially now that opening-day starter Hiroki Kuroda is on the 15-day disabled list.
But Billingsley, 24, who was 16-10 last year, rejected suggestions that he's now the staff ace.
"Every fifth day when I get the ball, I go out there and try to win the ballgame," he said. "Any guy in our rotation is going to be doing that."
Regardless, the win was a sweet reversal of his last appearance at Dodger Stadium in October.
That's when the Dodgers lost Game 5 of the National League Championship Series to the eventual World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies. Billingsley was criticized for not retaliating when Phillies pitchers apparently threw at some of Billingsley's teammates.
But the soft-spoken Billingsley had no interest in discussing it further, saying, "It's in the past."
DeWitt to minors
The Dodgers optioned Blake DeWitt to triple-A Albuquerque, mainly so that the 23-year-old infielder can play regularly.
The team purchased the contract of infielder Juan Castro, who had been at Albuquerque, and he joined the big league club Monday.
To make room for Castro on the 40-man roster, outfielder Delwyn Young was designated for assignment, meaning the Dodgers have 10 days to trade him, release him or send him to the minors.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said that if the team had been able to "envision getting [DeWitt] a couple of hundred at-bats, then it would be worthwhile having him here.
"But at the start of the season, especially after as much as he played in spring training, you just don't want him to sit here and really not have enough playing time."
For many Dodgers fans, the home opener is the one excuse for missing work or school.
Randy Renick of Altadena and his two sons, Riley, 11, and Dexter, 7, were among the first through the gates.
"It's always the most exciting game of the year," said Randy Renick. "It's the only game where there's always hope about a good season."
And fans of Manny Ramirez, who captivated Dodgers fans after he joined the team last summer, were back in force.
They included 16-year-old Jose Chavez of Sun Valley, who arrived with friends Angel Villagran, 14, and Chris Carvajal, 13.
Chavez's face was painted in Dodgers blue and white, and he was one of many wearing fake dreadlocks.
"This is my first time for Dodgers opening day, and I'm really excited," Chavez said.
The Dodgers' win marked the first time the team defeated Johnson at Dodger Stadium; he had been 7-0 in 11 previous starts there. . . . The Dodgers are off today.--