"I think this is the dangerous time for him," said manager Don Mattingly. "He's going out there with the other guys and he can't go to another level, trying to keep up with the Joneses."
Billingsley said he's thrown off a mound nine times, tossing only semi-fastballs in the low 80s (mph), and was up to 36 pitches on Friday. He speculated that he might add curveballs by the end of the month, then throw to live hitters in March. He hopes to move on to game situations by the end of March.
That would seem to put Billingsley ahead of the projected return of late May or June.
"Nobody knows when I can come back," he said. "I just continue one week at a time."
Billingsley said he's learned a lot about patience -- and about the monotony of rehab -- but he doesn't regret not having the surgery earlier. He's confident the procedure fully repaired the ligament he tore.
"With Tommy John, there's such a high success rate, and my arm feels unbelievable," he said. "You have guys who take a while with their range of motion, but everything has come easy to me. It's been a smooth rehab process."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.