If Chad Billingsley returns to the Dodgers this season, it might be in the… (Patrick T. Fallon / For the…)
As the comeback of Chad Billingsley drags on, any possible return this season trends toward him becoming a reliever.
There is no guarantee Billingsley – on the disabled list for the second time in six weeks with a sore elbow – will be back this season. He had one platelet rich plasma (PRP) injection on Thursday and may have another.
But he has not pitched since Aug. 24, and with the farm systems’ seasons winding down this week, there is no opportunity for him to take a rehab assignment to build arm strength back up.
So if he does come back, it is starting to like it would be out of the bullpen.
“It kind of moves in that direction,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “There is instructional league going on and things like that. You can try and build up that way. At the end of the season you would think a guy would be fairly built up.
“It just kind of gets tougher and tougher. The longer a guy can’t throw, the longer it takes to come back.”
Dodgers Chief Executive Stan Kasten said last week he fears Billingsley is done for the season.
“I heard that,” Billingsley said. “They haven’t really told me that. I’m trying to get back as soon as possible.
“We have something special going on with this team. These past 10 days have been the most boring time I’ve ever had.”
Billingsley, however, has yet to throw since going on the DL. The Dodgers use a battery of tests in the training room to judge his improvement.
If Billingsley is unable to throw again this month, after the elbow calms down he said the Dodgers want him in their training complex this winter to test it. Which sounds a lot like, if it still is sore, Tommy John surgery is ticking.
“I feel like it’s gotten better from the first [PRP],” Billingsley said. “They haven’t given me any [indication] when I might be able to throw. I’m just going day to day and seeing how it feels.”
Billingsley was on one of the best stretches of his career when the elbow flared up again. In his seven starts after coming off the DL the first time, he went 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA and was a much-needed, legitimate No. 2 pitcher.
Which would at least prove valuable if he can at least come back this month in the bullpen.
“If it’s something where he could help me throw an inning, that would be good,” Mattingly said.
The bullpen would not be a completely unfamiliar world for Billingsley, who has made 29 career appearances as a reliever (5-0, 4.23 ERA).
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