Billingsley healthy, eager to return to Majors

Billingsley healthy, eager to return to Majors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If the Phillies trade Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee in the coming months, they will need somebody to take their place.

That could be Chad Billingsley.

Billingsley, 30, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Phillies in January. He pitched just 12 innings in the big leagues the past two seasons because he had Tommy John surgery in April 2013, along with surgery to repair his right flexor tendon in June. But Billingsley said on Thursday at Bright House Field that he feels healthy and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Billingsley could be ready to pitch in the Majors by late April.

Even if Hamels and Lee remain with Philadelphia, Billingsley could bump another pitcher from the rotation. Jerome Williams is on a one-year contract. David Buchanan has options remaining.

Outlook: Billingsley, SP, PHI

"It could be sooner or later," Billingsley said about his potential return. "One thing I know after the last two years is don't look too far ahead. It was a long two years."

If Billingsley can return to prior form -- his 3.65 ERA from 2007-12 ranked 27th out of 89 qualifying pitchers -- the Phillies not only will fill a hole in the rotation, they also will have a relatively desirable trade chip come July.

It is something worth watching as the season progresses.

"I'm feeling really good right now," Billingsley said. "I started to mix in breaking balls Tuesday and everything recovered really well after that."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.