GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley almost feels too good nine months after Tommy John elbow reconstruction.
"My arm hasn't felt this good in a few years. I feel like I have a whole new arm," Billingsley said on reporting day for Spring Training. "They keep telling me, don't throw 95 [mph] yet."
"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."
Dodgers look into preparation for post-Australia jet lag
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, the presumed Opening Day starter for the Dodgers, said he's already started researching the challenges of the 14-hour trans-Pacific flight for that Australian series against the D-backs.
"I threw during the offseason with Brandon McCarthy, who pitched in Japan with Oakland," Kershaw said Saturday, when pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch-Glendale. "He said coming back is the hardest part, to get ready for the season. It's definitely not an ideal situation travel-wise, but I guess we've got to make it work."
Manager Don Mattingly continued the Australian theme in his opening session with the media. He said it was "kind of cool" to help take baseball to another international locale, but the compressed Spring Training "makes you a little nervous."
Mattingly was a coach with the Yankees in 2004 when they opened the season in Japan. He remembered that the outbound trip went fine, but not the return.
"That was rough," Mattingly recalled. "We came back with four Spring Training games and that was miserable and we started bad. Those are the things I worry about. The bell rings, those two games count, then you come back and say [three exhibition games against the Angels] don't matter. I worry about bad habits."
Mattingly all but confirmed Kershaw and Zack Greinke would start the two games Down Under, but the club would prepare Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dan Haren as well. Josh Beckett reported ready for full action after surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, but he might not make the Australia trip. The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until mid-April.
Greinke didn't sound thrilled with the pair of 16-hour flights.
"I'll probably be miserable," said Greinke, who will probably have an extra day to adjust as the likely Game 2 starter. "It's not an ideal situation, but the way it's set up, with a few days after we arrive before the first game, we should be able to handle it."
Catcher A.J. Ellis, who went on a promotional trip to Australia in November, said the jet lag is real.
"Going there was no issue, but coming home was rough," he said. "We had a 36-hour jet lag."
Greinke weighs in on Kershaw's record deal
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Zack Greinke, who a year ago signed a record contract with the Dodgers, said the deal teammate Clayton Kershaw signed with the club was solid for both sides.
"It's a good deal for him, but the club should benefit too," said Greinke, whose $147 million contract was far eclipsed by Kershaw's $215 million deal.
"He's been so good, anything he gets you'd probably say he's worth. Maybe he got a little more than I thought, maybe a million a year more. The opt-out is big -- he'll only be 28 [actually 30]. That's the main reason you might say it will be better [for Kershaw]. I think it's pretty fair all the way around."
Greinke's contract is for six years, with an opt-out clause after the third season. Kershaw's contract is for seven years, with an opt-out after the fifth season.
Greinke said he's optimistic about the Dodgers' chances this year.
"From what I've read, you guys don't have as high expectations as I do," he said. "We're probably better than last year. We've got seven guys, I'm not sure of the number, that would be top-tier pitchers on any team."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.