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Billingsley preparing for unknown role

Billingsley preparing for unknown role

LOS ANGELES -- A year ago, Chad Billingsley went into the National League Division Series as the Dodgers' starting pitcher for Game 2 and beat the Cubs.

This year?

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Dodgers at a glance
2009 record: 95-67
2008 record: 84-78
NL West champs
NL best record
NLCS matchup:
Phillies at Dodgers
Postseason tix: Buy now

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

"I have no idea," said Billingsley, which says a lot about the peaks and valleys of a Major League Baseball career.

Manager Joe Torre has lined up his first two pitchers for the opening series and they are Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw. After that, he's not saying.

With Hiroki Kuroda scratched because of a herniated disk in his neck, Torre has three starters -- Billingsley and late additions Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland -- for the final two slots he'll need in the best-of-five series that starts Wednesday against St. Louis at Dodger Stadium.

Earlier in the week, Torre had Garland start and Padilla relieve a game in San Diego. Garland allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings, while Padilla pitched two scoreless innings coming out of the bullpen for the first time since 2001. On Sunday, they will reverse roles, with Padilla starting and Garland relieving.

Billingsley, who last started Tuesday in San Diego, could have started Sunday. Instead, the tentative plan is to have him throw a simulated game Monday (possibly at the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch Spring Training complex), which would line him up to pitch Game 3 five days later.

Billingsley is coming off back-to-back quality starts after being skipped a start while he regrouped and worked out a flaw in his mechanics that had developed over the second half of a season in which he was so good in the first half that he made the All-Star team.

At his worst, he went five starts without a win. With Kuroda out and Billingsley back on track, he seems likely to keep his spot in the rotation.

Torre said Billingsley has the best arm and the ability to dominate, Padilla has the combination of experience and stuff, and he likes what he calls Garland's "grittiness."

Billingsley said he expects to start.

"Right now, I'm preparing like I'm starting, unless they tell me different," he said. "That's the way I usually prepare. I don't go in thinking that I don't know what to expect. I'm sticking with my normal plan. Why would I change? I prepare the same every day. Why change something."

Billingsley started twice against the Cardinals this year. He took a strange loss in St. Louis July 28, pitching five scoreless innings, then imploding in a six-run sixth. But he rebounded Aug. 18 by allowing two runs in six innings of a 7-3 win. He's 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA lifetime against the Cardinals, 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA in three starts at Busch Stadium.

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

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