Commentary

Billingsley has another rough outing

Dodgers right-hander sets the tone early after being hit hard, and L.A. digs deep hole

Updated: April 21, 2010, 12:22 PM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

There are no indications, hints, whispers or rumors to support this supposition, which is based purely on speculation, but the Dodgers might be starting to run out of patience with Chad Billingsley. And if they aren't, well, maybe they should be.

On the other hand, it isn't like they really have anybody else to turn to.

The embattled right-hander struggled again Tuesday night in an 11-9 road loss to the Cincinnati Reds before 12,965 at Great American Ball Park. Although the Dodgers came back to tie the score on a three-run homer by Matt Kemp in the eighth inning after Billingsley had left them in a deep hole, and although reliever Ramon Troncoso came unglued in the bottom of the eighth and wound up holding the check for this one, it was Billingsley's latest failure that set the tone for the evening.

[+] EnlargeChad Billingsley
AP Photo/Al BehrmanChad Billingsley never got on track Tuesday at Cincinnati and saw his ERA balloon to 7.07.

It started out well enough, with a perfect inning, this after the Dodgers had staked Billingsley to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. But in the second, the first five batters got hits off him, and when the sixth -- Reds pitcher Homer Bailey -- tried to give Billingsley a gift first out, Billingsley fielded Bailey's bunt and threw it up the right-field line.

Thanks to Kemp's homer, Billingsley came away with no decision. But his ERA ballooned to 7.07, and it would have been more ghastly than that had three of the seven runs he gave up in his three innings not been unearned -- they were unearned only because of Billingsley's error.

And so it continues.

Almost four years after Billingsley, long the Dodgers' top pitching prospect and their first-round draft pick in 2003, arrived in the major leagues. For most of those four years, he has been underwhelming, largely because of a maddening inability to keep his pitch count down. It took him 56 pitches to complete his three innings, and he threw 107 and 116 in his first two starts without getting through the sixth inning in either of them.

And on a night when the Dodgers were beginning a stretch in which they will play 13 consecutive games without an off-day, it was important for Billingsley to go deep and give the bullpen a rest. But as so often happens in his case, he failed to do that, too.

This game was different, though. It wasn't so much a matter of too many deep counts, as it usually is with Billingsley. He didn't issue a walk, and the first four batters he faced in that disastrous second inning all hit either the first or second pitch, each time for a hit. But the problem this time was that Billingsley had so much trouble getting anyone out that it still took all those pitches just to get as far into the game as he did.

Since last year's All-Star break, Billingsley is 4-7 with a 5.51 ERA.

The reality is that Billingsley probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Barring an injury, he'll be in the Dodgers' rotation all year. But if the only reason for that is that the Dodgers don't have any alternatives, it certainly doesn't bode well.

For him or for them.

Roster move

Jon Link had a memorable major league debut Tuesday night, coming in to start the sixth inning and pitched through the seventh. He faced the minimum without giving up a hit. He allowed one baserunner, walking Joey Votto with one out in the seventh, but Votto was thrown out trying to steal second.

Link's reward for that performance? Immediately after the game was shipped back to Triple-A Albuquerque, from which he had been recalled Sunday. No corresponding move was announced, but the Dodgers are expected to activate reliever Ronald Belisario from the restricted list before Wednesday night's game.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre told reporters before the game Belisario could join the club as early as Wednesday. Meanwhile, Dodgers broadcaster Rick Monday indicated on the air Tuesday night Belisario was actually en route to Cincinnati from the Dodgers' spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz., where he had been working out since reporting five weeks late to camp because of visa problems.

Injury update

Someone else in the Dodgers' bullpen -- and although it isn't immediately clear who that person is, Ramon Ortiz would seem the likely choice -- got a momentary reprieve when the club decided not to activate left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day disabled list until later in the week. Torre told reporters the move would come no earlier than Thursday.

Key moment

Although Kemp delivered a clutch, tying three-run homer off Nick Masset in the top of the eighth inning, erasing what was left of what had been a six-run deficit, Kemp also made a baserunning gaffe in the third inning that might have been pivotal. With the Dodgers trailing by three following Billingsley's six-run, second-inning implosion, Kemp led off the third with a base hit, hinting that the Dodgers might get right back into the game. But on a stolen-base attempt, Kemp inexplicably never slid, and he was tagged out easily by Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera.

Minor matter

John Lindsey, the first baseman for the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate, was named the Pacific Coast League's Batter of the Week for the first week of the season after batting .568 (25-for-44) in 10 games. He had a .612 on-base percentage. Lindsey, 33, is a Crash Davis-type character who is in his 16th season in the minors without ever having spent a day in the majors. He spent last season with Florida's Triple-A New Orleans affiliate but is back with the Dodgers' organization for the third time in the past four seasons. He hit a combined 56 home runs with 221 RBIs for the Dodgers' Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Las Vegas affiliates over a two-year period from 2007 to '08.

Looking ahead

Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers' best starter through the first two weeks of the season, will take the mound against longtime Reds ace Aaron Harang, who has gotten off to a miserable start. Harang (0-2, 7.88 ERA) was torched for eight runs and 10 hits in four innings Thursday at Florida, and he has given up five home runs in 16 innings. Kuroda (1-0, 1.20) has struck out seven batters in each of his first two starts and has yet to issue an unintentional walk this season.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Jackson reported from Glendale, Ariz.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com