LA's Billingsley confident in turnaround

Billingsley confident in turnaround

LOS ANGELES -- Just as a 16-win season was overshadowed by a playoff debacle in Philadelphia last year, so have Chad Billingsley's team-high 12 wins this season taken a back seat to his stretch-run skid.

After a fourth consecutive loss Sunday in San Francisco, Billingsley struggled to explain how he would turn things around. Dodgers manager Joe Torre was assured in a Monday meeting with the right-hander that there was nothing physically wrong with Billingsley, who broke his ankle slipping on ice last winter and missed a start last month with a strained hamstring.

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2009 record: 95-67
2008 record: 84-78
NL West champs
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WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Loney: Taking good swings
Kuo: Long road back
Thome: Back in Philly
Loney: Building resume
Bullpen: Led by Broxton
Torre: Rep precedes him
Blake: Chemistry guy
Kershaw: Game 1 nod?
Dodgers: Eyes on prize
Kemp: Path of the pros
Furcal: Back healthy
Kershaw: Like Koufax
Hudson: Keeping head up
Billingsley: Unknown role
Ethier: Slump over
Torre: Tough decisions
Kershaw: Elite comparisons
Kemp: Nearly elite
Kershaw: Path to the pros
Billingsley: Fate in balance
Ethier: Aims to improve
Torre: Back to playoffs
Kershaw: Ready to rock
Rotation: Plenty of options
Kemp: Chasing LA history
Bullpen: Dominant pair
Honeycutt: Pitching guru
Kemp: Tools to match talent
Ethier: Walk-off wonder
Billingsley: Vying for spot
Ethier/Kemp: Dynamic duo
Torre: Another pennant race
Pierre: Receives high praise
Kershaw: Beyond his years

"He hasn't won for a while," said Torre. "I'm sure he's frustrated."

While skeptics wonder whether Billingsley will be worthy of a slot in a postseason starting rotation and columnists question his toughness, he hardly sounds like it's time to call in the sports psychologists, even though the Dodgers have one on speed-dial.

"I know it's in there and I'm going to turn it around," said Billingsley. "It's frustrating because I know I'm better than this and I expect more. When things aren't going well, you can get down on yourself. I know I can do it. Really, I can't wait. I can see it in my head. It's a matter of getting through this."

Here's what "this" is: He is 0-4 with a 5.67 ERA in his past five starts, allowing 38 hits over the past 27 innings and four homers. The struggling Dodgers offense has scored only six runs in those four losses.

"I haven't pitched well, but I haven't pitched God-awful either," he said. "I haven't gotten tattooed. I've gotten ground balls, but some found holes. I made a mistake pitch to Juan Uribe Sunday [for a home run]. That happens. The first half last year was the same situation -- pitch well, but the results weren't there.

"The past four starts, I've felt good. Before that, my mechanics weren't in sync. I was spinning off. Then I had the hamstring. Since I've come back from that, I've felt fine. Maybe subconsciously it's there."

Just as puzzling for Billingsley was the 5-0 start to the season, a complete reversal from his personal history of slow starts and strong finishes.

"I worked hard to come back from the ankle to be ready," he said. "But I was surprised the first few months."

He had something to prove after two losses to Philly in the National League Championship Series. Torre was asked if he sensed any carryover from then to now.

"Unfortunately, what you do on that big stage, it never goes away until you do something else on the big stage to make them forget," said Torre. "This kid is not afraid of anything, I'll tell you right now. He's not looking for a reason not to pitch."

After his last several starts, Billingsley has been called in to the manager's office, but he's tried to see the bright side in that.

"I get to talk to Joe Torre," he said with a laugh.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.