PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies signed Chad Billingsley to a one-year contract in January because they considered it low risk, high reward.
It was low risk because if Billingsley, who left Saturday night's 3-1 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park with elbow tightness after five scoreless innings, could not pitch effectively following a pair of right elbow surgeries, they had committed only $1.5 million. That is a pittance compared to the $37.5 million injured left-hander Cliff Lee will make this year, which includes his $25 million salary and a $12.5 million buyout on a 2016 club option.
It had the potential for reward because if Billingsley pitched well, the Phillies hoped to trade him to a contender before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, or even the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline.
But neither seems likely after Saturday.
"Throughout the game I was feeling it," Billingsley said of the elbow issue. "I don't really know the extent of it right now. I haven't seen the doctor or had him evaluate me. But I guess I'll know more once that happens."
Billingsley had Tommy John surgery on April 24, 2013, and flexor tendon surgery June 24, 2014, before joining the Phillies' rotation in May. He lasted just three starts before suffering a strained right shoulder, which put him back on the disabled list.
"Just something didn't look right," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "In his face you could see in his face that something was bugging him, so we wanted to make sure and take care of it. ... Stiffness, soreness ... he complained about it. We felt it was in the best interest of him, especially after what he's gone through, to take it easy."
If Billingsley (2-3, 5.84 ERA) heads to the DL again, it seems right-hander Jerome Williams could take his place. Williams just made his third rehab start Friday with Double-A Reading.
But clearly the Phillies are desperate for quality starting pitching right now, which made Billingsley's early hook stick out.
"You know what's been going on here," Mackanin said. "We want our pitchers to go more than five innings, and I certainly didn't want to take him out. But we're not going to risk his health, if in fact there is anything of any serious nature. I'm hoping that he's going to be fine and it's just one of those things that's going on while he's getting back into his groove. Just being careful with him."
Billingsley almost didn't know what to say Saturday. Asked if he feels he can't catch a break, he only said, "It's part of it. It's part of it."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.