It was Jackie Robinson night two years ago in Chavez Ravine when baseball last saw Chad Billingsley. He made a solid start against the Padres that was eventually destroyed by a shoddy Dodgers bullpen and unsupported by an unclutch Dodgers offense. Tonight, he has the 2015 Phillies behind him, a team that makes the 2013 Dodgers look like 1927 Yankees.
Yes, look at him go.
It was that sort of solid start that made the Phillies want to bring him on board this year. That and his relatively cheap price tag, given the two years that had passed since he had strolled onto a major league mound.
In the two years since the start portrayed in that hastily edited MLB.com video, Billingsley has suffered elbow issues, Tommy John surgery, and a procedure to put back together a torn flexor tendon. Naturally, he's chomping at the bit to get out there, but no one has apparently told him what team he plays for.
"I've been working hard for a couple of years. Now I get to compete again and try to win a baseball game. I'm just really happy about that."
Billingsley also made reference to how much "fun" his job is, and how that motivated him to return. "Fun," of course, being a concept very much alive among the 10-17 Phillies. Actually, 10-17? Single digits below .500? This team is really surprising me.
The 30-year-old right-hander has a career 3.65 ERA with over 1,000 SO (1037) and under 500 BB (491) in 1175.1 IP. 3.65 isn't as dandy an ERA these days, but perfectly serviceable to a Phillies team who would be popping champagne if he were to be deemed worthy of a trade to another team (another team who understands how trading works, anyways). He is the last reinforcement upon which the team was waiting, too, so no more "Just wait until Chad Billingsley gets here" excuses.
Billingsley's $1.5 million, one-year deal is chock full of bonuses, so he's getting an extra $250,000 for making it onto the roster tonight. It's another reason to celebrate as he considers the long road behind him, then sees that the Phillies' beating offensive heart is Jeff Francoeur, Freddy Galvis, and Cody Asche, and realizes the long road that also lays ahead of him. But at least this one won't be as strewn with his own body parts.
Welcome to the Phillies, Chad. And good luck.