At one point, the Los Angeles Dodgers believed that Chad Billingsley would be ready to take the mound for them well ahead of schedule. After suffering an initial setback, the team then believed he would return right around this point in the season. Unfortunately for the team and for Billingsley, the right-handed pitcher has been diagnosed with a partial tear of the flexor tendon in his right elbow. It appears that it may be very likely that Billingsley is in need of yet another surgery.
While there was no damage to the repaired ulnar collateral ligament, the injury casts doubt on Billingsley’s future with the club. Billingsley had just thrown three innings at High-A, facing 16 batters while giving up two earned runs and striking out three before experiencing the elbow discomfort.
Currently in the final guaranteed year of his contract, the Dodgers can elect to pay Billingsley $3 million to cut him loose or $14 million to keep him for the 2015 season. It seems unlikely the Dodgers would take a $14 million risk given Billingsley’s recent injury history.
It is still too early to tell, but a partial tear of the flexor tendon will likely require surgery, which will quash any hope of Billingsley returning to the mound for the Dodgers this season. Their familiarity with him and his age may mean that the Dodgers will be willing to offer Billingsley an incentive-laden deal to return to the team in 2015.
Billingsley has gone 81-61 on his career with the Dodgers, posting a 3.65 ERA. His best season was 2008, when he went 16-10, threw over 200 innings and posted a 3.14 ERA while compiling 201 strikeouts. He may have been the victim of lofty expectations due to his first-round draft pick status, but Billingsley has been — when healthy — a very solid mid-rotation pitcher, as demonstrated by his career FIP of 3.65.
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