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.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.