Billingsley Has The Arm, Will Compete

VERO BEACH, Fla.- It, was in the middle of last season that Chad Billingsley heard the words that he'd been waiting for ever since he learned that he could throw a baseball better than most- "You're going up to the big leagues." But it couldn't have come at a more awkward moment. You see, he was going through his dead arm period.

"I seem to have that right around All-Star time and it was happening again," he relates today. As a result, he arrived in Los Angeles from Las Vegas accompanied by something less than his "A" game. His starts for the Dodgers were indicative of that for they began to wonder if the rookie righthander was not at all what his press clippings and scouting reports had indicated.

Just as they were about to tell him to pack his bags again for a return trip, life stirred in his arm again and his next several starts were more than satisfactory. He pitched very well down the stretch and everybody was happy. At least, until a relief outing in Colorado, that well-known den of iniquity for pitchers.

He shakes his head about it now. "Everything they hit seemed to be bloopers that just went over Jeff's (Kent's) glove. They were all falling in. I'd never had a game like that in my life."

In any case, Chad didn't get a start in the post-season. Along the way he learned to respect major league hitters. "In the minors there's guys that can hit the ball just as far but minor league hitters tend to try to do too much and you can take advantage of that. Big league hitters, though are so much smarter.

"I remember I was pitching to Dave Roberts and threw a perfect curve. It had great break right down on the corner. So, he just dropped his bat down and flipped a single into right." He shakes his head in admiration. >br>
Although he learned how capable they are up on top, he also acquired the knowledge that with his good stuff in operation, he can get outs with regularity. That's something he'll have to prove again this spring as he competes for a starting role.

Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and ex-Giant Jason Schmidt seem certain to be the big three in the rotation with another new acquisition, Randy Wolf , expected to be the lefthander in the number four slot. That leaves one vacancy remaining and there's no end of applicants for the position. To win it, Billingsley will have to fend off the challenges of Hong-Chih Kuo, Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko, not to mention non-roster hopeful Joe Mays plus D. J. Houlton and Eric Stults up from the minors.

He's more than ready to get started. He's been a year-round resident of Vero Beach, having purchased a home here when he was pitching for the Class A club located on the premises. So he spent the winter working out at Dodgertown with a strength coach. But he's glad that's behind him.

"I'd work out for an hour or so in the morning , then maybe play some golf in the afternoon. Then, at night, a little TV , then to bed. So, I was getting anxious for baseball to start. "

Actually, it was no ordinary winter for him for he got married to a girl from nearby Sebastian whom he met while playing here. And his dad Jim had a serious brain operation. Jim's down here recovering now and will be getting out to spring games. Oh, and Chad also bought a house in Arizona near where the new training base will be constructed.

Thus, among other things he's looking to sell his house here in order to move west so he's added real estate agent to his list of things to do, asking a reporter if he's interested in buying.

In the meantime, though, that arm is lively now so he's ready to demonstrate that his future lies very much in Los Angeles, not Vegas.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories