Last month Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley had to stop his minor-league rehab assignment for Tommy John surgery due to a setback, but he returned to the mound yesterday by throwing a simulated game.
Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times reports that Billingsley will throw at least one more simulated game before trying another minor-league rehab stint, but he generally seemed pleased with how things are going:
My arm is feeling really good right now and I’m real happy the way it responded. It’s not throbbing or anything like that. It wasn’t really fatigued after throwing 30 pitches, so it’s definitely responding very well right now.
Billingsley hasn’t been healthy and effective since 2012, but before the elbow problems he was a very effective mid-rotation starter for the Dodgers with a 3.66 ERA in 1,163 innings from 2006-2012. Because of that success Billingsley understandably wants to return to the majors as a starter, saying: “If they had some other thing [in mind], why would I be doing multiple innings?”
However, right now there’s no clear spot for him in a Dodgers rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Josh Beckett.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.