Dodgers @ Mets April 23, 2013: Smell You Later, Chad Billingsley

April 23, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Posted in Game Threads | Leave a comment

citifieldDoes finding out that your longest tenured pitcher needs Tommy John surgery hurt any less when absolutely everyone expected it to happen? Hang on, sources within baseball are confirming that: yes, it still hurts.

Yes, as we’ve all long expected, Chad Billingsley is going to go under the knife tomorrow, costing him the remainder of 2013 and likely the first portion of 2014 as well. Recovery time is usually around 12 months.

You don’t have to look too hard to find examples of people saying that the team and player were foolish for not having done this last August when the problem first came up, because the timing here is basically the worst case scenario. As I said in January when looking at the atrocious history of pitchers attempting to work through similar elbow injuries…

Dodgers
Mets
LF
Crawford
SS
Tejada
2B
M.Ellis
2B
Murphy
CF
Kemp
3B
Wright
1B
Gonzalez
C
Buck
3B
Hairston
RF
Byrd
RF
Ethier
LF
Duda
C
A.Ellis
1B
Turner
SS
Sellers
CF
Cowgill
P
Kershaw
P
Niese

Taken at face value, that’s incredibly promising, but it’s also an enormous risk. If Billingsley had gone under the knife in late 2012, he’d likely have missed all of the upcoming season but (probably) have been ready to go in 2014. By waiting, if the elbow goes out in spring training or during the season, not only is 2013 gone, but 2014 is as well.

He won’t miss all of 2014, but he’ll be limited, and while there’s incredibly valid arguments to be made that we’re neither doctors nor privy to Billingsley’s medical records… this seemed like an idea that was never going to work. It didn’t, at the worst possible time, and so now this is a rotation that has both Ted Lilly and Stephen Fife in it.

On the plus side, we don’t have to listen to another season’s worth of people arguing about which vital organ Billingsley may be missing — unless, of course, it’s whatever tendon they use to replace the one that snapped in his elbow — and his inevitable move to the 60-day disabled list opens up a 40-man roster spot, should that be needed at some point. The good news here is that the success rate for pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery is pretty good, though it remains to be seen if he’ll be be able to crack a Dodger rotation of Clayton Kershaw / Zack Greinke / Cliff Lee / time-traveling 1965 Sandy Koufax after management inevitably panics and overreacts to the slow start.

With all that, there’s still a game tonight in chilly New York, and Kershaw is on the mound against Jonathon Niese. Jerry Hairston gets another start ahead of Luis Cruz, and I like every part of that.

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