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T.J. SIMERS

It's not tough to translate Chad Billingsley's body language

Another poor effort against Giants makes him winless for almost a month.

September 14, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM SAN FRANCISCO — His body language on the mound suggests he's clueless as what to try next, Chad Billingsley these days looking like the disappointing Brad Penny of old.

Maybe it's because the uniform doesn't fit quite right over the large body, or maybe it's the slumping shoulders or dropped head every time pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has to come out to console him.

Like Penny, when he was with the Dodgers, Billingsley doesn't hang around very long, four innings Sunday, 70 pitches and bring on Jeff Weaver. Yikes.

You've got some real explaining to do these days when you can't beat a punchless team like the Giants, San Francisco riding the arm of Penny to compound the embarrassment.

Penny has made three starts for the Giants, going eight innings, seven and seven more against the Dodgers to be 3-0.

Billingsley has won three games since June 14, none since Aug. 18 and hasn't lasted more than six innings since July 5.

And Billingsley is supposed to be at the top of the Dodgers' rotation when the playoffs begin, forgetting for a moment his 8.49 postseason ERA.

Now I don't know what batters see when standing in the box against him, but with notebook in hand in the clubhouse, he gives off the impression he just might start crying.

A few years back Tom Lasorda walked by Billingsley, who was just a young pup, and said he had a nickname for him.

"Pit Bull," Lasorda said, before being advised that might not be good for the kid given the way some pit bulls make headlines these days.

Who knew Billingsley would then act like a whipped puppy?

"Yeah, it's getting to [me]," he said in a halting voice, spending more time shaking his head than offering answers to what's gone wrong.

He's such a good kid too, as fine a young man as there might be in the Dodgers' clubhouse. But toughness seems to get someone further at this level, Billingsley beating himself up worse than the Giants, and they were pretty tough on him.

"I honestly don't know what to tell you," he said. "I left the ball up. Mid-thigh, belt high, not good. It's frustrating. I just got to figure it out."

Maybe so, but at this point in his young career, most folks expect more. "I expect it out of myself too," he said.

A little more spring in his step might help. It's almost as if he's expecting things to go wrong these days, walking around the clubhouse as if everyone is down on him, or will be the next time he takes the mound.

"I want to win so badly," he said, but shaking off the losses and poor pitches a little quicker might make him more imposing.

It's working for Penny, who left the Dodgers with bad feelings and then bombed in Boston. Rather than dwell on what went wrong, though, "I've decided to be more positive," he said.

While Billingsley likes to keep the emotions bottled inside, Penny lets them fly, which suggests Larry Bowa has some explaining to do.

Bowa questioned Penny's toughness when he was with the Dodgers. It got under Penny's skin.

Penny can be rattled, and getting the chance to pitch against the team that he feels turned its back on him while questioning his toughness, the situation was ripe for gamesmanship.

But instead Bowa accepted the invite of a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, offered his hotel room number and agreed to have a chat with Penny before Penny pitched. Anything to make the big guy feel more comfortable, I guess.

Instead of standing in the third base coaching box, a glare here, and maybe a word or two to help stoke the emotion that sometimes rages uncontrollably in Penny, Bowa made nice with him.

Bowa going soft?

"That's not me," Bowa said when asked why he wouldn't do whatever he could to help the Dodgers win.

As a result, score one for the Chronicle sportswriter, one for Penny and seven runs for the Giants, while leaving the Dodgers with a quivering mess in Billingsley.

WHEN I told our beat reporter, Dylan Hernandez, I'd concentrate on Billingsley, he said as much as he has written on Billingsley, "it'd be like beating a dead horse."

Anyone who remembers Barbaro knows I'd have no problem doing that.

WHAT A great win for UCLA, and big-time congrats to Rick Neuheisel, who is my choice now to leave and coach Notre Dame.

RIGHT NOW the only folks who agree with Pete Carroll that Mark Sanchez should have remained at USC are playing football for the Houston Texans.

THE RAMS opened the NFL season with a 28-0 loss to Seattle, and people elsewhere think we miss not having a team.

THE OTHER day Orlando Hudson walked by Manny Ramirez, Ramirez saying, "Orlando and I are going to be here together next year."

"Not me," said Hudson, who moments earlier had said, "Life is good. Michael Vick is back, we've got Obama as president, I'm in the big leagues and God is good."

Life apparently will be better elsewhere next year.

DON'T KNOW if you missed this, Hugh Hefner filing for divorce from Kimberly Conrad after waiting more than 10 years "because of the children."

The sacrifices that man has had to make.

I READ Dwyre's outrage from the U.S. Open, not surprised he'd be so emotional after what happened to Notre Dame.

Dwyre seemed very troubled by Serena Williams' outburst, writing "if she were an Oregon football player, she'd be out for the season."

I read further, because I had no idea she had hit someone, only to learn Williams had told the line judge, "I could shove this ball down your throat."

Seems to me she should be commended for showing such restraint, a role model for LeGarrette Blount.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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