For Billingsley The Best Is Yet To Come

Chad Billingsley was about to make another start for the Dodgers. The previous results had been lukewarm to say the least and this one may well have determined whether he stayed in the rotation, went to the bullpen or even back to the minors. So, a member of the front office who knew him very well stopped by his locker to talk.

"You know what I'm not seeing out there? He started, then answered himself. "Chad Billingsley. I know how you can pitch but you're not doing it. You're giving these hitters too much credit. Sure, it's the big leagues but you belong here. Go out and throw the ball the way you can, don't think about who's up there and you'll be fine."

It was the kind of talk Chad had to hear. He did exactly as advised and secured his spot in the rotation. He was out there on a regular basis and threw a succession of quality games.

There was a further problem when he developed a blister on the index finger of his right hand. Gripping a curve ball properly was painful, almost impossible. He didn't beg off, though, but, rather, using his fast ball almost entirely, kept his team in the game. Afterwards he made no excuses. The press didn't even know about it.

He wound up his first season in the bigs with a very respectable 7-4 record with a 3.80 ERA. He actually had the latter figure dipping until it might have gotten below 3.00 but his last start was in Colorado. One of those days up in the high country where Mendoza would make Cy Young look bad. He exited early then.

Now, they have to consider how much to count on him for 2007. You may think you've seen him pitch but if you haven't traced him as he climbed up the ladder you really haven't. For the kind of game he can be counted on is just starting to emerge.

He possesses the pitches- a mid-90's fast ball, a sharp curve. What's more he has the intelligence and the determination to succeed- in a big way.

His problem was very evident- he walks too many people. In 90 innings up on top, he struck out 59 while walking 58. That's a very unacceptable ratio.

One problem is he hasn't started to economize his pitches. He simply loves the strikeout too much (what young pitcher doesn't?) and, as a result, winds up with pitch counts that force an early exit too often.

He's been very good at dancing through the raindrops but he'll have to learn to let the ball get into play more often. It's all part of growing on the mound and that's something he's been able to do in a very short career. This is a challenge he'll adjust to and conquer as well.

Every now and then a pitcher comes along that makes you pause and watch intently. The Dodgers have a few of those in the system now. Billingsley is one. He should be a major force for the team for some time.

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