04/07/2009 12:09 PM ET
Chad Billingsley: Don't overlook staff
Dodgers pitching remains solid for NL West champs
Our lineup really stands out this season. Historically, the Dodgers have been known for pitching, but this year our batting order from top to bottom is incredibly strong. It's definitely a lineup that I wouldn't want to face as a pitcher. So it's understandable that there's been more focus on our offense this spring.
But we also have a pitching staff that's in a good position to succeed. We're still young, but we have a little bit of experience now, too.
I've been around a few years now. Clayton Kershaw is going on his second year. Hiroki Kuroda is going into his second year here after pitching for 10 years or so in Japan. Randy Wolf is back to give us an experienced left-hander. And James McDonald, who impressed me in the postseason, will be in the fifth-starter role.
I'm really happy to have Jason Schmidt back with us, too. He's a valuable guy even when he's not on the mound. I've learned a lot from Jason in the time we've spent together here. He's been a mentor for me. He's had a tough run with injuries and is trying to get back, but I've been throwing with him every day and he seems to be coming along, so I'm happy for him.
Our bullpen is solid, too. Jonathan Broxton came along last year and did a great job as our closer after Takashi Saito went down.
There's no doubt in my mind that we're very capable of getting the job done. We've got a great staff and we're capable of doing some big things this year.
Personally, I reached a goal when I pitched 200 innings for the first time last season. I almost didn't get there. They wanted to line me up for Game 2 of the Division Series, so they were going to have me skip my last start, but Joe Torre ended up letting me go out there for two innings so I could get my 200 innings and my 200th strikeout.
That was a big deal for me, since it was my first year as a full-time starter. Now, going into this season, I know what it takes. The main thing is to remain consistent and healthy. You have to maintain yourself, and you can't make a habit of missing starts. You get treatment if you need it, but you also need to learn to keep yourself loose and keep from getting tight.
I'm not going to say I know exactly how to do that now, but from experiencing that full season as a starter, and talking to guys like Jason, Greg Maddux and Derek Lowe, I have a better idea. We'll miss Derek, of course. I learned a lot from him, too. He's a guy who understands what it takes and has a tremendous work ethic.
So I've had some great teachers in my time here, and now I have a little experience to go with that. I have the luxury of listening to all of these guys, these great resources, and picking out what works best for me.
Another thing we have going for us this year, which shouldn't be overlooked, is our defense. What more could a pitcher want then to look behind him and see Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson in the middle infield? I know Raffy, and I've just been amazed watching Orlando this spring. That guy can pick it, and he's an outstanding personality in our clubhouse, too. With those guys, Casey Blake and James Loney at the corners and Russell Martin behind the plate, we're solid defensively.
We have a strong all-around team -- offensively, defensively and as a pitching staff. We have all the tools and resources a club could want, so I feel we're set up well as a team to succeed. Now it's a matter of going out and executing, which of course is easier said than done.
Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers' first-round selection in 2003 coming out of high school, is entering his fourth season with Los Angeles and coming off his first 200-inning, 200-strikeout season. The 24-year-old right-hander was dominant at times in 2008, placing third in the NL with an average of 9.02 strikeouts per nine innings, fifth in the league with 201 strikeouts and seventh in the league with a 3.14 ERA.