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Billingsley passes first test with spring in step

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Billingsley made it through the first game test for his right elbow on Monday and his arm didn't fall off.

In fact, Billingsley said he didn't even think about the partially torn ligament that has healed with platelet-rich plasma injections, avoiding Tommy John surgery so he's now being treated like any other pitcher and not a rehab case.

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"I had such an adrenaline rush going warming up, so as far as worry about the elbow, no," Billingsley said. "After the first couple of throws, yeah, this is fun."

Billingsley said he wasn't worried about the results, a good thing, as the first three Cubs had extra-base hits, including a home run by Nate Schierholtz.

"Today I just wanted to stay on the plate, throw strikes and get ahead in the count," Billingsley said. "As the spring progresses, I'll get to pitching. This is just getting back out there. My fastball felt good. I threw some good curves and changes. It was good for the first time."

Manager Don Mattingly said the fact that Billingsley issued zero walks was a sign that his arm is sound.

"That's one of the main things you look at when a guy has got something going on, if his command is there," Mattingly said.

If Billingsley is healthy, he slots in as the No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett, while leaving Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly as potential trade pieces.

Capuano followed Billingsley and allowed four runs, including back-to-back home runs by Darnell McDonald and Welington Castillo.

"It's never fun to give up gopher balls," Capuano said. "I was feeling for it a little the first inning."

Billingsley and Capuano missed their scheduled session to throw batting practice last week when it rained, so this was their first time against hitters. Billingsley will make the rotation if he's healthy, but there might not be a spot for Capuano.

"The first couple of outings are time to work on stuff," Capuano said. "I give myself a little of a free pass now."

Billingsley said he's working on a tweak of his setup in the stretch position, at the suggestion of Sandy Koufax, to improve the quality of the pitches and delivery quickness to slow down the running game.

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