PHOENIX — Chad Billingsley’s uncertain health status was one of the reasons Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti cited for entering spring training with eight starting pitchers.
But Billingsley said that in his mind, there are no doubts about his elbow. He has already been on the mound about a dozen times since he started his throwing program last month.
“Throwing a bullpen [session] and throwing all my pitches, bouncing back for the next one, I have no problems,” he said.
That he can do this much is a relief to Billingsley, who sat out the final month of the season because of a partially torn elbow ligament and was considered a surgery candidate.
Billingsley spent the first part of the off-season rehabilitating at the Dodgers’ spring-training complex.
“I was going to get my work in, do what would give me the best chance not to do [surgery],” he said. “And if it didn’t hold up, then, OK, I would have to have surgery.”
An operation would have sidelined him for the 2013 season.
The Dodgers’ medical staff tested Billingsley’s elbow in gradual steps. They had him play catch. They had him do long toss. They had him do long toss at longer distances. They had him pitch from a mound. They had him pitch from a mound at 90 mph.
“Each time, I passed with flying colors,” he said.
The final exam consisted of a couple of simulated games. He touched 94 mph. He was told to go home and do what he would do any other off-season.
Billingsley is expected to be part of the five-man rotation, provided he is healthy.
He said he is determined not to relive what he experienced at the end of last season, when the Dodgers tumbled out of contention.
“It was tough,” he said. “Especially late in the year when you’re making that push. It’s late in the year. It’s been a long year. Your body’s tired, but you get the extra adrenaline out there because you’re making a push to the playoffs. But you have to sit there and watch. You’re like, ‘This sucks. I want to be out there.’ “
Short hops The Dodgers will face Matt Cain in the first game of the season, as the All-Star right-hander was selected the San Francisco Giants’ opening-day starter. Cain will pitch opposite Clayton Kershaw. The game will be April 1 at Dodger Stadium. … Sandy Koufax was in uniform and worked in the bullpen area with pitchers, including Josh Beckett. … Kershaw was among the pitchers to throw live batting practice to a group of hitters that included Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford.