Chad Billingsley trying to avoid Tommy John surgery

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Chad Billingsley was ruled out for the season a while ago, but the Dodgers right-hander is trying to determine if he’ll need Tommy John elbow surgery and the 12-18 month recovery timetable that comes with it.

Billingsley has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, but was able to play catch regularly for the past week and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports that he “now will ramp up to see if the ligament can withstand the rigors of pitching.”

Any hope that Billingsley can avoid going under the knife and continue to pitch effectively with a partially torn elbow ligament stems from his receiving two different platelet-rich plasma injections that are intended to aid the healing process.

After a very disappointing 2011 season Billingsley bounced back with a 3.55 ERA and 128/45 K/BB ratio in 150 innings before being shut down in late August. He’s under contract for $11 million next season and $12 million in 2014, with a $14 million option or $3 million buyout for 2015.

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the National Anthem last night

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Pittsburgh Pirates swingman Steven Brault has a 4.38 ERA in 19 games this year. He also has a music degree and is a professional singer on the side of his baseball gig. He didn’t get into last night’s game against the Brewers as a pitcher, but he did get to use his singing skills.

Specifically, Brault got to sing the National Anthem. And he did an OK job of it too. He’s not Whitney Houston or anything, but he did what all Anthem singers who are not as gifted as Whitney Houston was should do: he kept it straight and businesslike, avoiding unnecessary flourishes:

It’s march, dang it, not a ballad, and it should be treated as such. Unless of course you’re Whitney Houston.