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Dodgers find themselves a needed starter -- and surprise! -- it's Chad Billingsley

July 5, 2010 |  6:36 pm
Overlooked, once again. It’s something of a theme with Chad Billingsley. Unless he’s going poorly and people are questioning his mental toughness.

But Billingsley is pitching well again, pitching much more like the guy who was an All-Star last season and plenty less like the guy who went 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA after the break.

"Billingsley has been a huge, huge find for us," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He’s like a new pitcher again. Right now he’s like the same guy I met two years ago. He’s that personality right now.

"You could see it [Sunday].  A man at third base and nobody out, and he just wasn’t going to let that guy score. That’s the stuff I saw a couple years ago."

Sunday after Mark Reynolds tripled in Arizona’s only run with no outs, Billingsley struck out Gerardo Para, Dan Haren and Kelly Johnson.

Billingsley went six innings, allowing the one run on six hits and two walks. He struck out four.

The right-hander hardly started the season like a pitcher the Dodgers could count on. Following his struggles in the second half last season, after his first three games this year he owned a bloated 7.07 ERA.

After allowing seven earned runs in only three innings in Cincinnati, Torre called a meeting with Billingsley and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

"We were trying to find what the heck we should do here," Torre said. "I know Rick hit it on the head. There was always so much talk about his pitch count, that it was so high, high.

"That’s the pitcher he is. Since that time, he’s become a better pitcher. A big part of it was, he wasn’t trying to throw strikes. He was just letting the ball go. His ball has had a lot more life since then."

Since those first three starts, Billingsley has had a 3.49 ERA. Subtract one bad start against the Angels (seven earned runs in three innings), and he’s had a 2.87 ERA.

His effort Sunday was somewhat overshadowed by Matt Kemp’s game-winning two-run homer and reliever Hong-Chih Kuo striking out six in two innings.

But Billingsley (now 6-4, 4.06 ERA overall), seems clearly headed on the right path. The kind that could get a guy noticed.

-- Steve Dilbeck