Reporting from Phoenix — One of the Dodgers' big question marks is how well starter Chad Billingsley will pitch, given his seesaw season in 2009. But Billingsley said "things are coming along great" this spring after the right-hander and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt made adjustments to the pitcher's delivery.
Billingsley had allowed two earned runs while striking out nine in 9 2/3 innings of spring training games as of Tuesday, giving him a 1.86 earned-run average.
Tuesday was an off day for the Dodgers, but Billingsley maintained his throwing schedule by tossing 84 pitches against the Cleveland Indians' triple-A team at Camelback Ranch. He gave up two earned runs — both solo homers — and three hits overall in six innings.
The 25-year-old Ohioan made his first All-Star team last year after going 9-3, with a 2.72 ERA, in his first 14 starts. But he tailed off badly in the second half of the season, finished the year 12-11 with a 4.03 ERA and didn't start any of the Dodgers' playoff games.
Part of the problem: "My mechanics got a little bit off balance." That made his pitching delivery — and his pitches — erratic, a situation perhaps aggravated by hamstring problems last August, he said.
"As far as my delivery, I really want to stay through the ball a little longer, and to repeat that so that things are more consistent," Billingsley said.
"I used to cut off and fly open on my front side, which would cause my pitches to yank" unpredictably, he said. "My arm was playing catch-up," he said, with the rest of his body in his pitching motion for "the whole second half, from flying open so much."
So he's made adjustments that seem to be working. "It was nothing really major, it was just little tweaks," he said.
And would Billingsley enjoy being tapped by Manager Joe Torre to open this season? "It's Joe's decision," he said. "It would be great, but all I'm concentrating on is what I need to get ready for the season."
Carlos Monasterios, a 24-year-old Venezuelan, has made an impressive bid for the fifth spot in the Dodgers' rotation. He gave up only two hits in eight scoreless innings to start the spring before the Angels got to him Monday for three runs and five hits in four innings.
But Torre said the right-hander is still in the mix.
"I thought his stuff was good," Torre said. "We got to see him for four innings and that was pretty impressive, I thought."
Monasterios, who spent the last 3 1/2 years in the Phillies organization, could move between the starting rotation and long relief since he excelled as both a starter and reliever in the minors.
The Dodgers said Tuesday's off day marked the end of the training part of spring training and the start of serious work nine days before the team breaks camp and heads for Los Angeles.
"This is where you can get your whole team on the field," Torre said. "That's really when you sort of get yourself in gear. The players right now, I think a lot of them are a little bored."
Second baseman Blake DeWitt agreed. "Everybody's getting anxious," he said.