With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking for answers to two big questions facing their pitching staff.
Can left-hander Clayton Kershaw return to the starting rotation despite a dislocated (non-throwing) shoulder?
And can Chad Billingsley work his way out of a lengthy slump in which he's lost his past four decisions?
Kershaw, who hurt his right shoulder in a collision with the outfield wall while shagging flies on Sept. 6, threw a 45-pitch simulated game on Friday. He's slated to come out of the bullpen in the Dodgers' three-game series at Washington this week.
"[Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] was out there and he said everything kind of looked normal and I felt normal," Kershaw told reporters. "So as far as the mechanics and stuff, I think everything went pretty well."
Although the Dodgers want to get Kershaw, the team ERA and strikeouts leader, back in the rotation, they want to make sure his mechanics won't be compromised by the right shoulder injury, and that he can field his position and swing a bat. But manager Joe Torre was impressed by what he saw Friday.
"He had real good command, and part of that could be he wasn't trying to overthrow the ball," Torre told reporters. "But I thought for being away as long as he's been away, it looked pretty comfortable for him."
Meanwhile, Billingsley, who had been scheduled to start this weekend against the San Francisco Giants, instead was sent to the bullpen to get some work. He pitched 1 2/3 innings on Friday, allowing two runs on an Aaron Rowand home run and a Juan Uribe RBI single in the Dodgers' 8-4 loss. He's expected to make his next start on Wednesday, against the Nationals.
In his previous start, against the Giants on Sept. 13, Billingsley allowed three runs and eight hits in four innings in a 7-2 loss. Entering Saturday's game, he was 12-10 with a 4.05 ERA.
"I don't want to be there [in the bullpen]," Billingsley said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I want to be a starting pitcher. It'll just be a couple times so I can keep working on things and figure something out.
"I'm starting on Wednesday. I'm not going to go there and mope and cry about it," he said, according to the report. "I'm going to do the best I can whenever I step out there on the mound."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.