3.00 ERA / 4.38 FIP 12.0 IP 4.50 K/9 3.75 BB/9 (inc.)
2013 in brief: Made just two April starts before his elbow exploded.
2014 status: Under contract for $12m, though his role and availability remain up in the air.
I don’t really want to dwell too much on how it was all but absolutely certain that Chad Billingsley‘s elbow was going to pop, because while it seemed obvious that he was just delaying the inevitable, you understand why he tried to push through it. The team was geared up for a big year, he was entering his age-28 season, and it’s tough to simply say “okay, I’ll skip all of that” even if it seemed like the smart thing to do.
If there was anything surprising about this, it’s how quietly it ended up happening. Billingsley didn’t throw a pitch and then walk off the mound in obvious pain, like we all thought he would. He finished six innings on Jackie Robinson Day by getting future Dodger John Baker to ground into a double play, then he was pinch-hit for by Nick Punto…and that was that.
We didn’t even hear any rumblings about any sort of a problem until six days later in Baltimore, when he was scratched from his start and placed on the disabled list not long before game time. I think you need to remember just how truly awful that week was:
So if we’d said before the season began simply that “Billingsley would go on the disabled list with elbow pain on April 21,” which he did today, I think we’d all have sadly shaken our heads and moved on with our lives, figuring that was inevitable anyway.
But if we’d said “also, that’s going to happen after Zack Greinke broke his collarbone and Aaron Harang was traded and Chris Capuano injured his calf and Ted Lilly is already scheduled and so it falls to Stephen Fife to prevent back-to-back sweeps against the Padres & Orioles, of all teams,” I think we’d all stop and laugh at the cruelty of the universe. I mean, what else can you do?
Three days later, he had surgery, and that’s the last we saw of him this year, other than a few appearances in the dugout where he was sporting a cyborg-like elbow brace.
Reportedly, his recovery from surgery has been “stunning,” though we should know not to take that at face value. While the early date of surgery might mean Billingsley should be back relatively early in 2014, it’s far from clear what his role is going to be. As it stands, the fifth spot in the rotation belongs to Josh Beckett, who is also returning from surgery, and we don’t yet know what other moves the team makes this offseason. It’s not out of the question he starts out in the bullpen, either. The Dodgers hold an option on his 2015 for $14 million (or a $3 million buyout), so he still has much riding on the season.
Next! More starting pitchers!