Chad Billingsley #58 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres on April 10, 2013 in San Diego. The right-hander has been undergoing platelet-rich plasma injections to treat an elbow injury.
There’s the Tommy John surgery named after the onetime Dodger lefthander. Could they wind up calling the platelet-rich plasma injections treatment after Chad Billingsley?
The veteran Dodger right-hander on Wednesday night became the prime candidate to be known as the poster pitcher for platelet-rich plasma injections that he chose instead of undergoing elbow surgery in the off-season.
In his first Major League start since undergoing the treatments, Billingsley had an impressive outing, stopping the Padres in San Diego, 4-3, going six strong innings with consistent fastball velocity in the low 90s.
Billingsley had the good fortune of working with a lead provided by Carl Crawford’s home run on the second pitch of the game. The lead was padded by A.J. Ellis’ second-inning dinger that also scored Luis Cruz, who had broken his early season slump with a much-needed single.
Meanwhile, Billingsley was strong from the start and answered the questions in the minds of baseball people wondering if his rehab and platelet-rich plasma injection treatment are a real alternative to surgery – or if it has only delayed the Tommy John operation, if the ligament doesn’t hold up.
Billlingsley had suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last season.
Instead of surgery, he chose to undergo a strong rehab program and a treatment of platelet-rich plasma injections during the offseason – a treatment popularized when golfer Tiger Woods underwent it for a knee injury several years ago.
Billingsley started the season on the disabled list, but it wasn’t because of the elbow. He had bruised the index finger of his pitching hand in a bunting drill during spring training.
In his six innings, Billingsley scattered five hits, struck out three and walked three while allowing an earned run in the fourth inning when he gave up a lead-off walk to Will Venable who scored on Chris Denorfia’s line drive double to center field.
In his outing Billingsley threw 94 pitches, 54 for strikes.
His strong start gave the Dodger bullpen a chance to redeem itself after the Tuesday night debacle when, for the first time this season, it gave up not just a run but a slew of them.
Ronald Belisario pitched a scoreless seventh inning, but Kenley Jansen had a scare in the eighth bailed out by Matt Kemp chasing down a long drive in center and Skip Schumaker’s diving catch of a soft fly in left field.
In the bottom of the ninth, Brandon League got into trouble when he gave up Nick Hundley’s double, his fourth hit of the game, a single to Everth Cabrera and Will Venable’s RBI line drive that cut the Dodger lead to two runs.
Then, A.J. Ellis muffed a 1-2 pitch curveball that had struck out Denorfia but got way from the Dodger catcher on what should have been the third out.
Suddenly, the Dodgers found themselves with a one-run lead, two runners, and close to League blowing the game.
But they hung on to win, League getting his third save.
The Dodgers scored what turned out to be the decisive fourth run in the fifth inning when Crawford tripled off the left field wall and scored on Mark Ellis’ single.
Crawford continued his offensive tear with the homer and triple in three at-bats. Cruz, Kemp and Mark Ellis were all 2-for-5, and Justin Sellers was 2-for-3.
For Crawford, it was the sixth two-hit game of the season, and he said after the game that he is still coming around physically but that it hasn’t held him back at the plate.
“It’s not messing with my swing,” he said. “I’m just trying to get on base for the power people behind me so they can do their work.”