LOS ANGELES -- As Chad Billingsley works his way back from Tommy John surgery, he has started to ponder why so many fellow pitchers have joined the club he never wanted to be part of.
The Miami Marlins' Jose Fernandez is the latest bright, young pitcher who might be headed for the season-ending surgery pioneered by longtime Dodgers team physician Frank Jobe. Billingsley had his surgery 13 months ago and threw his second bullpen session before Tuesday night's game, mixing fastballs and changeups. He had to restart his throwing program after experiencing pain in his elbow two weeks ago.
An unprecedented number of pitchers have been diagnosed with torn elbow ligaments requiring Tommy John surgery since the start of spring training. They include Braves right-handers Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Cory Gearrin; Diamondbacks ace Patrick Corbin; Athletics starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin; Rays All-Star Matt Moore; Yankees starter Ivan Nova; Padres starter Josh Johnson; Mets closer Bobby Parnell; Royals setup man Luke Hochevar; Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon; and top Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon.
"What we do is not natural," Billingsley said. "No one knows the answer. Guys' arms go out. What's Jose, 22? I was 28. You get it at a young age, in old age. Every guy's mechanics are different in such a way, it'd be so hard to pinpoint one, two, three things. You see guys where you're like, 'How does he do it without hurting his shoulder or elbow?' and they do it for years. There are guys who look like they have great mechanics and they can't stay healthy. It's just an unnatural motion."
Billingsley joked that the only solution might be to start throwing underhand.
"Hey, softball players can throw 12 innings in back-to-back days," he said.
Billingsley was diagnosed with tendinitis and received an injection of platelet-rich plasma and has now thrown two bullpen sessions. Assuming he feels good after he mixes in breaking balls, he figures to begin a rehab assignment and could be back sometime in June.