- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- For most of the past month, Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley appeared to have put his inconsistent past behind him. By most accounts, including his own and that of manager Joe Torre, that didn't necessarily change Friday night.
Not as he was giving up a career-high seven earned runs. Not as he was allowing opposing pitcher Joel Pineiro of the Los Angeles Angels to reach base three times, including twice via walk, in the first game this year in which Pineiro has actually batted. And not as Billingsley was left holding the check for the Dodgers' 10-1 pounding by the Angels before 52,407 at Dodger Stadium -- a loss that dropped the Dodgers back into a first-place tie with the San Diego Padres in the National League West.
"I felt good," Billingsley said. "I gave up eight singles. They weren't hitting the ball hard. It wasn't like I was missing over the middle of the plate or up in the zone. I felt like I had good command. The only thing I didn't feel good about was my curveball. I had a hard time throwing it for strikes."
Unlike the last time Billingsley claimed he was making quality pitches after a game in which he got shelled, he probably doesn't have to worry about being called in for a sitdown with Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt this time.
"I thought he was throwing the ball consistently well," Torre said. "If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't have let him hit for himself in the fifth or sent him back out there for the sixth. I just think [Pineiro] frustrated the [heck] out of him."
And each time Pineiro got on base, he wound up scoring.
Billingsley actually struck Pineiro out on a pitch in the dirt to begin the third inning, but the ball bounced away from catcher Russell Martin, and Pineiro wound up reaching first base safely. Billingsley then gave up hits to three of the next four batters, including a two-out single by Torii Hunter that brought home Pineiro with the game's first run.
After James Loney homered to tie the score in the fourth, Billingsley walked Pineiro on five pitches to start the fifth. Five batters later, Hideki Matsui hit a two-out, bases-loaded double, giving the Angels a 4-1 lead.
Finally, Billingsley walked Pineiro again with two outs in the sixth, kicking off a four-run inning that put the Dodgers in an 8-1 hole.
"Sometimes when you get the pitcher up at the plate, you're just sitting there thinking about throwing strikes," Billingsley said. "You're telling yourself not to worry about being too perfect. But sometimes you find yourself aiming the ball."
On an evening when the Dodgers' record slipped to 36-25 and his own mark fell to 6-4, Billingsley's ego took a beating, and so did his ERA -- it jumped by more than half a run, from 3.80 to 4.34. But while it might not have been a step forward for a pitcher who has turned his season around in dramatic fashion since that aforementioned meeting with Torre and Honeycutt after he was lit up in Cincinnati on May 20, it doesn't appear to have been as big of a step backward as Billingsley's pitching line would indicate.
Time will tell, of course. But for now, only Billingsley and Torre can tell, and they certainly didn't seem overly concerned.
The Dodgers reached agreement with four of their 50 selections from this week's amateur draft, including fifth-rounder Jacob Lemmerman, a shortstop from Duke University, who accepted a $140,000 signing bonus. They also signed shortstop Jesse Bosnik, their 13th-round pick from St. Bonaventure University; left-hander Alex McRee, their 14th-round pick from the University of Georgia; and outfielder Mike Drowne, their 28th-round pick from Sacred Heart University. Bosnik, McRee and Drowne all were college seniors.
Left-hander Scott Elbert's sudden absence from the Dodgers' Triple-A Albuquerque affiliate isn't as intriguing as it might have originally sounded. DeJon Watson, the Dodgers' assistant general manager for player development, said Elbert was tending to a family matter and as such had been put on the temporary restricted list. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Elbert had been given permission to leave.
Elbert, who will turn 25 in August, was the Dodgers' first-round draft pick six years ago and still hasn't gained a foothold in the majors, although he has logged big league time every year starting in 2008. Most recently, he was recalled May 28 and sent back two days later. In between, he made one relief appearance May 29 at Colorado in which he faced six batters and walked three of them.
In nine starts at Albuquerque this season, Elbert is 1-1 with a 4.98 ERA and has walked 34 batters in 43 1/3 innings.
Rookie right-hander John Ely (3-2, 3.00) will be pitching on five full days of rest after an unusually rough outing against Atlanta on Sunday in which he gave up four runs and nine hits over five innings in a game the Dodgers eventually won in 11 innings. Lefty Scott Kazmir (5-5, 5.40) goes for the Angels. He has won each of his past two starts, giving up only two runs over 12 innings, and has made only one career start against the Dodgers, giving up three runs and seven hits over six innings in a no-decision in 2007 while he was with Tampa Bay.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.