Chad Billingsley sounded like a new man.
He was smiling. He wasn't mumbling.
"It's a different story in the playoffs," he said. "It's a new season. You get a new life. The regular season's over. It's postseason, it's October. The whole playoff atmosphere is exciting."
Billingsley was named the fourth and final member of the Dodgers' rotation in the National League division series that starts tonight against St. Louis. Vicente Padilla will start Game 3.
Billingsley on Monday threw 82 pitches in a simulated game at the Dodgers' spring training complex in Arizona.
While he remains winless since Aug. 18 -- he beat the Cardinals that day -- Billingsley said he was encouraged by his last two starts. He gave up five earned runs in 12 innings in those games.
Billingsley said that around the time of the All-Star break, he started having trouble hitting the left side of the plate -- away from right-handed hitters.
"I started forcing the mechanics to go that way," he said. "Doing one little thing led to some other things. You fly open, you start drifting different ways."
He went as far as to move to the left side of the rubber.
Where is he now? "I'm back on the right side," he said.
And he said he feels as if he's regaining whatever it was that made him an All-Star.
"The past two outings that I've had, I felt a lot more like my first-half self," he said.
Still, Manager Joe Torre put Padilla, 4-0 since joining the Dodgers, ahead of him in the rotation. "I was probably just a little more comfortable with where Padilla is right now," Torre said. "I know Billingsley is getting there. Otherwise, he wouldn't even be considered for the No. 4."
Hudson to sit tonight
Orlando Hudson won't be starting at second base against the Cardinals in Game 1. But he said he doesn't mind that Ronnie Belliard is playing ahead of him. Hudson said he's glad just to be here.
The last time Hudson was on a playoff team, he was on the disabled list in October. That was in 2007, when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks and tore a ligament in his left thumb sliding into third base a month before the playoffs.
"I played hard during the season and came up short," he said. "I had to deal with that, but what can you do about it?"
Hudson said he was proud that he made it through this season without any injuries. Last season he dislocated his wrist, something that caused many teams to shy away from signing him this winter.
"Nobody thought I'd be doing what I'm doing," he said. "That's why I have no complaints, no kind of heartache."
With tonight's game slated for a 6:37 start, the Dodgers are encouraging fans to arrive early to beat rush-hour traffic. Gates will open at 4, offering a rare chance to watch the Dodgers take batting practice. . . . Hiroki Kuroda played catch for the first time since being diagnosed with a bulging disk in his neck. . . . John Foster, a 51-year-old employee of Farmer Brothers Coffee who was at Dodger Stadium on business, passed away in the press box Tuesday afternoon.