Weeks after a frustrating spring training wrapped up, Chad Billingsley is still struggling on the mound. During camp Bills was hit hard by opposing teams and saw his ERA rise to unacceptable levels. He claimed a new changeup was the reason for his early troubles. Veterans will often take time in training camp and exhibition games to work on new pitches that they would like to try out during the season. Sometimes the results are immediate and sometimes the results are disastrous. Unfortunately in Billingsley’s case it seemed to be the latter. Of course, spring training results are to be taken with a grain of salt. The emphasis is on getting ready for the season not playing all out for the win. Once Opening Day comes around players put their game faces on and stop experimenting with their pitches or their swings.
That’s what’s so concerning about Bills’ first couple of starts. He hasn’t looked like the dominating pitcher that he was last season…and you can’t blame that on a new changeup. His odd workload to start the season hasn’t helped. The first scheduled start he was supposed to make didn’t turn out as planned. Bad weather forced manager Joe Torre to begin the game with a relief pitcher due to the belief the game would be rained out after the first couple of innings. After a short delay, played resumed and Bills eventually made a brief appearance. He probably would’ve been better off waiting for another day because he didn’t fare well in the limited time he was on the mound, giving up 1 run in 0.1 innings pitched. Since he didn’t pitch much when he was supposed to and did not have another scheduled start until another 5 games, he was used as a reliever in the following series against San Diego in order to keep his arm warm. That worked out better for him and it seemed as if he may have harnessed his stuff but that thought was premature. He was hit hard in his second start against the D-Backs, surrendering 4 runs in 2.1 innings.
It’s hard to see him being this bad for the rest of the season. He finished the season last year as one of the better pitchers on the Dodgers’ staff and appeared to be heading in the right direction but at the age of 23, there’s bound to be some growing pains here and there. Control has been a problem for him early in his career and that seems to be what’s holding him back now. If you watch him pitch it’s not like he’s overly wild or anything like that. He tries to hard to paint the strike zone and rarely gets the call from the umpire. It’s frustrating as a fan because some of his pitches are so close but not close enough. I fully expect him to get his stuff together this season. When he’s on he’s one of the best young pitchers in the league. The Dodgers’ success will largely depend on how far he takes them. It could either way. We could be talking about the Cy Young award or we could be talking about a trip back to the minors. Keep your fingers crossed that it’s the former.