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Running out of time to decipher the mind of Chad Billingsley

April 21, 2010 |  5:40 pm
Chad1 Not sure what was more confusing, watching Chad Billingsley Tuesday night or reading what he had to say about it afterward.

Anyone who witnessed the Incredible Shrinking Chad Billingsley in the third inning -- six runs on six hits, none cheapies -- had to be left bewildered by this Billingsley postgame quote:

"I thought I was throwing quality pitches."

Right, and my last post was Pulitzer material. He left fastballs over the plate like Christmas morning gifts. Fastballs with precious little movement.

Really, he doesn’t seem to get it. And he could be running out of time.

"Last year, the second half, I felt like I was battling myself," he said. "I couldn't repeat my delivery. Now, I feel like I'm repeating my delivery consistently. I'm throwing the ball in areas that I want to."

Say what? You mean that right over the plate was the intended target?

After the game, Manager Joe Torre said he thought, understandably, that Billingsley was currently having confidence issues. There goes that mental makeup thing again.

Billingsley, understandably, denied lacking confidence.

"That's not an issue," he said. "I've been feeling good on the mound, as far as my delivery, my pitches. My arm feels good, my pitches feel good, my mechanics feel good. You have these times. I'm not going out there and walking guys. I'm going after guys. I'm making them beat me."

They are -- quite successfully.

Torre was just as confused by Billingsley’s postgame quotes as anyone. Enough that prior to Wednesday’s game, he met with the right-hander.

These were Torre’s pregame comments Wednesday, as provided by the team public relations department, and are intended as generally what he said and not exact quotes:

"He needs to get better. 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.

"All his starts are important now. 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've got to carry your load too  ... there are [24] other guys."

All his starts are important now, not just to the team, but to Billingsley. Torre seemed to be putting him on notice: Get it together or lose your spot in the rotation.

The trouble is with what happens if they take him out of the rotation. It isn’t like there’s some young pitcher whose performance is demanding opportunity. The Dodgers' rotation is piecemeal already.

Plus, what do you do with Billingsley? Send him down, send him to the bullpen?

The best choice, for now, still appears to be sending him out there and hoping he can work through this.

That requires, of course, that Billingsley actually knows what it is he needs to do to turn things around.

His most honest quote Tuesday night, when asked if he was throwing the ball where he wanted and his mechanics were sound, then what was the problem, was probably this:

"I  mean ... I mean  ... Honestly, I don't know."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Chad Billingsley during Tuesday's game against the Cincinnati Reds. Credit: Al Behrman/Associated Press
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