CLEARWATER, Fla. - Nine months elapsed between days on which Chad Billingsley pitched to live hitters, a time frame that probably seems like an eternity for the veteran major-leaguer.
But there the 30-year-old righthander was Tuesday morning at the Phillies' spring training complex, directing a series of 25 pitches to non-roster invitees Chris McGuiness and Darin Mastroianni. Pitching coach Bob McClure said afterward that Billingsley threw as if he never underwent surgery.
"From an arm strength [aspect] and the way it's coming out of his hand, you wouldn't be able to tell if that guy was ever hurt or not," McClure said. "So whoever did the operation did a good job."
Billingsley underwent surgery in June to repair his flexor tendon. The need for the operation was realized while he was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery performed in April 2013. His last official outing was a 12/3-inning rehab start in June 2014 in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., home of the Dodgers' high-A affiliate.
Billingsley could see game action later in the spring.
The significance of the Phillies' January signing of Billingsley to a one-year, $1.5 million contract increased this week given the uncertainty surrounding Cliff Lee and the tear in the 36-year-old lefthander's common flexor tendon.
"Right now, I'm preparing for the next time I go out there for, I think, [a simulated] two innings [in the bullpen]," Billingsley said. "That's what I'm looking forward to. I'm not looking forward to a game yet.
"[After] two years of this, you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself."
Eleven batters into his first start of the spring, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez exited with a right knee bruise after a Jose Iglesias line drive drilled him in the leg.
Gonzalez, speaking through an interpreter, did not sound overly concerned about the injury. The Cuban righthander said after exiting it bothered him a bit when he walked. It's too early to know if he will make his next start.
Before leaving with none out in the third inning, Gonzalez, competing for a spot in the Phillies' rotation, surrendered three runs on five hits, including Daniel Fields' two-run home run. The Tigers won, 6-0.
Catcher John Hester, in camp on a minor-league contract, underwent left knee surgery to repair a complex tear of his medial meniscus. He is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks. ... Former Phillies outfield prospect Michael Taylor retired from baseball. The Phillies traded Taylor, Kyle Drabek and Travis d'Arnaud for Roy Halladay in December 2009.
- Jake Kaplan