10/04/09 3:07 AM EST
Billingsley preparing for unknown role
Torre hasn't announced rotation beyond NLDS Game 2
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"I have no idea," said Billingsley, which says a lot about the peaks and valleys of a Major League Baseball career.
Manager Joe Torre has lined up his first two pitchers for the opening series and they are Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw. After that, he's not saying.
With Hiroki Kuroda scratched because of a herniated disk in his neck, Torre has three starters -- Billingsley and late additions Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland -- for the final two slots he'll need in the best-of-five series that starts Wednesday against St. Louis at Dodger Stadium.
Earlier in the week, Torre had Garland start and Padilla relieve a game in San Diego. Garland allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings, while Padilla pitched two scoreless innings coming out of the bullpen for the first time since 2001. On Sunday, they will reverse roles, with Padilla starting and Garland relieving.
Billingsley, who last started Tuesday in San Diego, could have started Sunday. Instead, the tentative plan is to have him throw a simulated game Monday (possibly at the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch Spring Training complex), which would line him up to pitch Game 3 five days later.
Billingsley is coming off back-to-back quality starts after being skipped a start while he regrouped and worked out a flaw in his mechanics that had developed over the second half of a season in which he was so good in the first half that he made the All-Star team.
At his worst, he went five starts without a win. With Kuroda out and Billingsley back on track, he seems likely to keep his spot in the rotation.
Torre said Billingsley has the best arm and the ability to dominate, Padilla has the combination of experience and stuff, and he likes what he calls Garland's "grittiness."
Billingsley said he expects to start.
"Right now, I'm preparing like I'm starting, unless they tell me different," he said. "That's the way I usually prepare. I don't go in thinking that I don't know what to expect. I'm sticking with my normal plan. Why would I change? I prepare the same every day. Why change something."
Billingsley started twice against the Cardinals this year. He took a strange loss in St. Louis July 28, pitching five scoreless innings, then imploding in a six-run sixth. But he rebounded Aug. 18 by allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-3 win. He's 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA lifetime against the Cardinals, 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three starts at Busch Stadium.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.