Which is why there were suggestions by some scouts that Billingsley's youth coaches had abused the right-hander, making him a Draft risk. Billingsley never refused to take the ball, but now he says he agrees with the scouts.
"I was abused," he said. "I made 189 pitches in one game. It was the American Legion World Series tournament in Yakima, Wash., and I was a sophomore (16 years old) in high school. I threw 7 2/3 innings. I struck out 14, walked seven, hit four. My whole amateur career I threw 100, 120, 140 pitches every game. The rule was no more than 10 innings in a 72-hour period and I would get right to the 10 innings every time.
"I remember one time in a regional series I had a 120-pitch start. The next day, our starter got into trouble and I came in and finished the inning by striking out two of the three batters, then went out to play right field and they brought me back in to pitch the sixth and seventh innings."
Billingsley said he had a stronger build than other kids his age, in part because his father designed a conditioning program for him.
"From the time I was 11 or 12, I was way advanced from the other kids," he said. "I was big for my age from an athletic perspective, strong for my age. [My dad] had me lifting when I was 8."
Caution flag for bullpen:
Jonathan Broxton and Joe Beimel pitched in five of the first six games coming out of the All-Star break. Manager Grady Little figured the bullpen has accounted for 25 of the 57 innings the club has played, and he's concerned about it.
"We know we have to be real careful with what we're trying to do," he said. "We don't want to lose anyone. We have to watch real closely."
Little said he would try not to use Broxton or 37-year-old closer Takashi Saito, who pitched in four of the first six games. He said he might use Beimel or 42-year-old newcomer Robert Hernandez if a save situation developed on Thursday night.
"It's speculation," he said, "but something tells me I shouldn't pitch them tonight."
The bullpen workload is the domino result of losing starters Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo to injury. In the first six games following the break, the Dodgers had one seven-inning start by Brad Penny, two six-innings starts, two five-innings starts and Mark Hendrickson's three-plus-inning start. That's an average of 5 1/3 innings per start.
Beimel has appeared in 48 games and is on pace for 82, which would surpass Tom Martin's franchise record (80) for a left-hander. Broxton has appeared in 49 games and is on pace for 84, which would be fourth-highest total in franchise history.
Little said Wolf could make a Minor League rehabilitation assignment start as soon as the middle of next week, pretty ambitious considering that Wolf has not tossed off a mound, had a bullpen session or faced live hitters since landing on the disabled list on July 4 with a shoulder impingement.
Wolf played long toss on Thursday and said he's feeling better than he has since June. He plans to toss off the mound for the first time on Friday, have a 40-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and then stretch out to 60-70 pitches in a mid-week rehab assignment. He said he should be able to throw 90 pitches in a Major League game after only one rehab start. That would put his return around July 31.
Meloan a step closer:
Jonathan Meloan fans will be happy to hear that the right-handed reliever was promoted from Double-A Jacksonville to Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday.
Meloan, 22, has been on Little's radar since Spring Training. Meloan had 18 saves and a 2.06 ERA at Jacksonville, with 65 strikeouts and 18 walks in 43 2/3 innings. He was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Arizona in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
West Coast to Far East:
A Major League Baseball and U.S. State Department-sponsored delegation of baseball coaches from China visited Dodger Stadium on Thursday. Hall of Fame manager and special advisor to the chairman Tommy Lasorda welcomed the group, which represented the China Baseball Association. The delegation has traveled to the U.S. to receive training in hitting, fielding, nutrition and team management.
Oliver Perez (8-6, 3.13 ERA) opposes Brett Tomko (2-7, 5.88) on Friday night in a 7:40 PT contest at Dodger Stadium.