COMMENTARY | In perhaps the most unsurprising news of the season for the Los Angeles Dodgers so far, Chad Billingsley is going to miss a year because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness detailed in January the pitchers who have tried to pitch through the injury. The success rate was not good. Adam Wainwright, who eventually needed Tommy John surgery, is the most notable pitcher to have extended success while pitching through the tear.
Ervin Santana has pitched with a partially torn UCL since the 2009 season. He's averaged 192 innings in that time, but he's been mediocre at best in those innings.
When Billingsley elected to have a platelet-rich plasma injection this offseason instead of undergoing the surgical procedure, many were skeptical he'd make it through the 2013 season. I was just hopeful he'd make it to June. Here we are less than a month into the season, and Billingsley made two starts.
If Billingsley had the surgery in September, he would be ready for the 2014 season without a doubt. Since he had it in late April, he'll likely be out until at least mid-May, but more likely June. The 2014 season is the last of Billingsley's contract. The Dodgers hold a $14 million option for 2015 that also includes a $3 million buyout. Because of the uncertainty surrounding Billingsley, 2014 could be his final season as a Dodger -- something that wasn't expected even just a couple years ago.
The Dodgers' once vaunted pitching depth is all but gone. Aaron Harang was rightly traded, Zack Greinke is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered during the brawl with Carlos Quentin and Chris Capuano is on the disabled list. Ironically, Capuano strained his calf while running in from the bullpen during the Greinke-Quentin brawl. Ahh, baseball, you are still undefeated.
The team has called on the likes of Ted Lilly (who actually pitched well on April 24 against the Mets) and Stephen Fife. Yikes. If those two falter before Greinke and Capuano are healthy, two Dodger prospects could get the call: Matt Magill and Zach Lee.
Magill is at Triple-A Albuquerque while Lee is beginning his second season (first full-season) at Double-A Chattanooga. Magill doesn't have as high a ceiling as Lee, but Lee has the higher floor.
Regardless, the Dodgers really shouldn't have to resort to prospects to fill the starting rotation. They've been hit hard with injuries so far, but if Lilly can pitch relatively well and Fife can do just enough to keep the Dodgers in the games he pitches, that will be good enough.
With Hanley Ramirez reportedly set to come back in the next couple of weeks, the offense might have to pick up for the pitching at times.
The Dodgers are 10-11 -- not exactly the start fans and prognosticators were expecting. Division championships aren't won in April, but they can certainly be lost. As long as the Dodgers can weather the storm until reinforcements arrive, they're going to be just fine.
Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chad Billingsley
- Los Angeles Dodgers