Can Billingsley get back on the beam?

In a radio interview with ESPN's Colin Cowherd on Wednesday morning, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly called pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke his, "1 and 1-A." That's a pretty strong entry, of course, but the Dodgers are hoping their rotation doesn't drop off after it to a field of longshots.

Chad Billingsley might be the best candidate to solidify the middle of the rotation as the No. 3 starter. But going into Billingsley's first start of the season tonight in San Diego, the Dodgers still have more questions than answers about him.

The sprained ligament in his elbow, which forced him on to the disabled list twice last season, seemed to hold up fine in spring training, but can they count on him staying healthy all year? If so, can he pitch to the level he did before the injury shut down his 2012 season?

"At the end of the year last year, before he got hurt, he was was as good as probably anybody out there," Mattingly said.

That's why the timing of the injury was so puzzling. In his final seven starts, Billingsley was 6-0 with a 1.80 ERA and he averaged seven strikeouts per game. In the 18 starts before that, Billingsley was 8-10 with a 4.30 ERA.

Making $11 million this season, Billingsley is being paid like a No. 2 or 3 starter. This would be an opportune time for him to show enough consistency to give the Dodgers what could be the deepest rotation in baseball.