Torre tells Billingsley to trust himself
What we learned on Wednesday was that Joe Torre does, in fact, read the papers.
After seeing Chad Billingsley get lit up for seven runs in just three innings on Tuesday night at Cincinnati, Torre saw something else that really bothered him: quotes from Billingsley saying he was throwing "quality pitches."
That comment, and a handful of others, earned Billingsley a meeting with Torre before Wednesday night's game, a 14-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before 12,203 at Great American Ball Park. During that meeting, it was made crystal clear to the enigmatic right-hander that the pitches he was throwing couldn't really be categorized as "quality."
Torre later told the reporters who were covering the Cincinnati series about the meeting and about what he expects from Billingsley.
"He needs to get better," Torre said. "His location has to get better. He made some comments that he made some good pitches. ... You don't get hit like that when you make good pitches. ... He needs to trust himself and feel it. We can talk to him all day, but he needs to go out and do it. It bothers him, I know it does. The game is important to him. You have to carry your load, too (because) there are 25 other guys."
On the issue of whether Billingsley's next scheduled start, on Sunday in Washington, is a critical one for him, Torre gave a cryptic answer.
"All his starts are important now," he said.
Again, the Dodgers don't appear to have any alternatives, at least for the moment.
The only two starters at Triple-A who are on the 40-man roster, lefty Scott Elbert and righty James McDonald, have been shaky early on. Josh Lindblom and John Ely are highly touted pitching prospects, but neither is on the 40-man, which is presently full. And the other starter at Albuquerque is journeyman Josh Towers, who has played sporadically in the major leagues since 2001 but hasn't made a big-league start since 2007 and doesn't seem like the kind of pitcher the Dodgers would clear a 40-man spot for.
Another possibility is that Billingsley could go to the bullpen. But that would mean his rotation spot would have to go either to Jeff Weaver, an experienced starter who hasn't gone longer than one inning in any of his nine appearances this year and who left Wednesday night's game with an injury after facing one batter; or Ramon Ortiz, who has gone as long as two innings out of the pen but hasn't been very good.
The most likely scenario is that one of two things will happen: either Billingsley miraculously finds that consistency he hasn't really had at any point in his four years in the big leagues except for maybe the first half of last season; or Billingsley continues to struggle, at which point the Dodgers will give someone else a chance, probably McDonald.
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For those who wondered for the first five weeks of spring training why the Dodgers didn't just wash their hands of Ronald Belisario, he provided an answer. Hours after being activated from the restricted list for the first time since reporting to spring training barely a week before the season opener because of visa issues, Belisario made his season debut with a perfect seventh inning. He got Brandon Phillips to fly to right and Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce to ground out. Dodgers broadcaster Rick Monday reported on the air during the game that Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt held a brief meeting behind closed doors with Belisario before the game, and Monday and play-by-play man Charley Steiner speculated that the meeting probably was one-sided and to the point.
By the Numbers
19--players in major-league history with 1,800 RBI after Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez joined the club by driving in a pair with singles in the first inning and the fifth. Ramirez had three singles and a walk in five plate appearances and raised his average for the season to .421. Ramirez's next home run will be the 549th of his career, moving him into sole possession of 14th place, ahead of Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, on the all-time list.
Dodgers reliever Jeff Weaver left the game after facing one batter in the eighth inning. The injury appeared to be to his right leg. Weaver entered to begin that inning and got Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes to ground out, but Torre and assistant trainer Todd Tomczyk immediately came out, and Weaver was removed. ... Torre reiterated to reporters before the game that Hong-Chih Kuo, who threw another side session on Wednesday, probably will be activated either Thursday or Friday.
Dodgers outfield/first-base prospect Jerry Sands, who plays for low Single-A Great Lakes, was named the Midwest League Player of the Week after hitting .439 through the first 11 games of the season, with nine extra-base hits, 12 RBI and an .805 slugging percentage. Sands was the Dodgers' 25th-round pick in the 2008 amateur draft out Catawba College in North Carolina. Because the minor-league season begins on a Thursday (April 8 this year), the first weekly awards cover an 11-day period.
Vicente Padilla will make his fourth start for the Dodgers on Wednesday night and is coming off his first good one of the year, a seven-inning performance against San Francisco on Friday night in which he allowed three earned runs on four hits. Highly touted rookie right-hander Mike Leake goes for the Reds. He got no decision in either of his first two starts, which were a mixed bag. He gave up just four runs on 11 hits in 13 2/3 innings, but he walked 12 batters.
Tony Jackson, who reported from Glendale, Ariz., covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com