Chad Billingsley went 10-9 with an earned-run average of 3.55 in 2012. (Joe Sargent / Getty Images )
Remember, now, it’s not how you start that counts.
This Chad Billingsley experiment got off to what you might consider a shaky start Monday, when the first four hitters he faced went double, double, home run, single.
At that point Billingsley had to be happy Manager Don Mattingly didn’t go to the mound and signal for Dr. Frank Jobe on the spot.
But the right-hander settled down, allowing the Dodgers to exhale and keep their fingers crossed that the gamble not to operate on his partially torn elbow ligament will pay dividends.
Billingsley allowed only one more single in his two innings of work, striking out one and not walking a batter.
It was left to the minor leaguers to earn the Dodgers their first victory of the spring, a 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs at Phoenix that featured a three-run sixth that came without a hit or error (two walks, a hit batter, a stolen base and two balks). Spring’s the best.
Minor league shortstop Oscar Luna singled in the winning run in the eighth. Nick Punto singled in a pair of runs in the first.
But the main focus Monday, other than Vin Scully's calling his initial spring game, was the first outing for Billingsley.
The Dodgers had not seen him in a game situation since shutting him down in late August with the bad elbow. He opted for a pair of platelet-rich plasma injections to try to avoid the Tommy John surgery that would have forced him to miss all of 2013.
Not knowing for certain how Billingsley would return, the Dodgers are presently carrying eight starting pitchers.
One currently on the outside of the rotation is Chris Capuano, who followed Billingsley and performed even worse. Capuano went two innings, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk. His trade value did not skyrocket.
Dontrelle Willis, the 2003 National League rookie of the year who is trying to make a comeback with the Cubs, left the game with an undisclosed injury after throwing seven pitches in the eighth.
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