Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley was placed on the 60-day disabled list… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Chad Billingsley could sit out all of the 2013 season if he has to undergo surgery to repair a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
Billingsley, who had developed into a reliable No. 2 pitcher behind ace Clayton Kershaw, will not pitch again this season, no matter how far the Dodgers might advance should they qualify for the postseason.
The Dodgers first will try a rehabilitation program, allowing the right-hander four to six weeks of rest and treatment before he resumes throwing. Billingsley said he has a slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament, which often requires Tommy John surgery.
"It makes you cringe a little bit," Billingsley said, "but they say I have a chance to heal from it before I have to worry about getting cut."
Sue Falsone, the Dodgers' athletic trainer, said the team wants to try rehabilitation first because 10% to 20% of pitchers do not regain their effectiveness after Tommy John surgery. She acknowledged that most pitchers with a partially torn ligament proceed directly to the surgery because of its success rate.
However, since this is the end of the season, she said the Dodgers can afford to allow Billingsley several months to try to recover without surgery. If Billingsley has surgery, the rehabilitation period is about one year, so he would miss all of next season whether he has the operation next week or next spring.
The Dodgers already have five starting pitchers under contract next season beyond Billingsley: Kershaw ($11 million), Josh Beckett ($15.75 million), Ted Lilly ($12 million), Aaron Harang ($7 million) and Chris Capuano ($6 million). Billingsley is signed for $11 million in 2013 and $12 million in 2014.
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