Billingsley, Loaiza knocked around
Dodgers righties look far from ready for season to start
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Chad Billingsley is in the Dodgers rotation and Esteban Loaiza probably will be, but neither looked particularly ready for the season to start when they were knocked around Sunday by the Colorado Rockies.
Billingsley, set to start the third game of the season, struggled with command and couldn't get a batter out in the fifth inning, even though he was scheduled to pitch six. He was charged with five runs on eight hits and walked the bases loaded in the first inning, complaining of an elusive release point. His spring ERA is 8.31.
"No command," manager Joe Torre said about Billingsley. "And the longer it went, the more frustrating it got. Instead of back off, he reared back and threw harder. He was throwing the ball good, but not where he wanted to."
Billingsley said his determined attempt to incorporate a changeup into his repertoire has made things look worse than they are. He threw almost all fastballs in the fifth inning, when the Rockies had three doubles, and said his arm feels fine. He's allowed 25 hits in 17 1/3 innings.
"I've gotten beat on the changeup a lot this spring, but I've got to throw it, got to prove it," he said. "I don't want to give up on it. It's a pitch I really want to have in the repertoire. I need it."
Loaiza, favored to beat out Chan Ho Park for the fifth-starter job in large part because of his guaranteed contract, allowed three runs in his first inning of relief, followed by two scoreless innings. He said he's only familiar with starting and had trouble timing when to begin his warmup in mid-game.
Loaiza allowed four of the first five batters he faced to reach base, but escaped further damage with a double-play grounder to end his first inning, held the Rockies scoreless the next two innings and went down to the bullpen at game's end to continue throwing.
Torre said Loaiza's guaranteed $6.5 million salary for 2008 is a "major consideration" in determining his role to start the season, all in the name of player inventory.
"He's had enough good days here," Torre said of Loaiza, who has a 4.20 ERA. Loaiza and Park will split Saturday night's historic game at the Coliseum against the Red Sox, according to the manager.
Brian Falkenborg, pitching on back-to-back days, inherited from Billingsley a runner on second with no outs and struck out two without allowing the run to score. Torre said Ramon Troncoso, who has made a late surge for a roster spot, "has been very interesting as far as I'm concerned."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.