Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley throws against the San Diego Padres on… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
BALTIMORE — When Chad Billingsley was put on the 15-day disabled list Sunday because of pain in his throwing elbow, Manager Don Mattingly wondered if the former All-Star's season would end on an operating table.
"It's hard not to think about it," Mattingly said.
That's because Billingsley considered reconstructive elbow surgery last year, when he missed the final month of the regular season because of a partially torn elbow ligament. But instead of resigning himself to a procedure that would sideline him for the entire 2013 season, Billingsley opted for injections of platelet-rich plasma and rehabilitation.
He went through spring training without any elbow problems, though he started the season on the disabled list because of a bruised index finger.
Billingsley said he felt some tightness in his elbow in his last start, a loss to the San Diego Padres on Monday. He didn't think anything of it at first, figuring his arm was fatigued because it was still growing accustomed to the workload of the season.
"It just never recovered, so I knew something was up," Billingsley said.
Billingsley threw a light bullpen session Friday and, he said, "It didn't feel right."
Billingsley underwent an MRI exam Saturday. He is scheduled to be examined by team physician Neal ElAttrache on Tuesday.
Because ElAttrache hasn't reviewed the results of the MRI exam, Billingsley said he couldn't rule out an operation.
"It's too soon to tell," Billingsley said.
The typical recovery time from reconstructive surgery is about a year. Next season, Billingsley will be in the final guaranteed year of his contract.
But Billingsley said the discomfort he feels in his elbow is different from what he felt last year. Whereas he was hurt last year on a single pitch, his latest problems developed gradually. Also, the pain is in a new location.
"I don't know what's wrong," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."
The recently slumping bullpen turned in its finest performance in some time, as it pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings in the Dodgers' 7-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
With the Dodgers leading, 5-4, J.P. Howell inherited a runner from starter Stephen Fife and struck out hot-hitting Chris Davis to exit the inning.
Matt Guerrier, Paco Rodriguez, Kenley Jansen and Brandon League each tossed a scoreless inning, in that order. League was credited with his fifth save.
The innings pitched by Guerrier and Rodriguez were particularly important, as they pitched in situations that were previously handled by out-of-form Ronald Belisario.
The Dodgers are 18-51 all-time in American League parks. … Three amateur players were signed from the Dominican Republic: right-handers Osiris Ramirez and Angel Guzman, and third baseman Jimy Perez.