Chad Billingsley was all smiles when discussing his long-awaited return to a major league mound.
“Its been a long journey for me,” Billingsley said. “It’s been a mental and physical grind.”
Billingsley had two elbow surgeries during his 25 month gap between MLB games.
But Billingsley persevered. The burly righthander worked out as much as possible and put his right elbow to the test. There was no physical trouble along the way.
“Everything checked out,” Billingsley said. “I’ve had no setbacks. I’m worried that I’ll be a little rusty.”
Billingsley’s fears were realized when he faced the Braves Tuesday night. The Berks county resident gave up homers to Freddie Freeman and Kelly Johnson, which accounted for the five runs he gave up on eight hits in five innings.
The soft-spoken Billingsley hit 93 mph on the radar gun but his problem was catching too much of the plate. But thanks to the Phillies dearth of starting pitching, expect Billingsley to have a number of opportunities.
“I hope to get better with each outing this year,” Billingsley said. “I can’t express how much I appreciate the Phillies for giving me this chance.”
Billingsley, who signed a $1.5 million one-season deal after spending eight years with the Dodgers, is low-risk and high-reward. If Billingsley gets it together, perhaps he can be a July trade chip, like Aaron Harang figures to be when teams seek rotation help.
“I’ll pitch wherever there is opportunity,” Billingsley said. “But I love being with the Phillies since they’re great with their players and I can drive home half of the season.”
Billingsley resides just outside of Reading, where his wife Tiffany Billingsley, came of age.
“I love it out there,” Billingsley said. “It reminds me of where I grew up in Ohio. It gets a little rough driving around King of Prussia with all of that traffic but once I make it past there I’m home free and there’s nothing like sleeping in your own bed.”
If only Billingsley can navigate through the traffic and pitfalls on the diamond.
“I’m confident that I’ll be fine,” Billingsley said. “To make it back as far as I have is something. If I’ve come back this far, I bet I can make the extra mile.”