As he rolled on a golf cart with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, leaving the scene of a minor league game he had just dominated, Rich Hill decided an engine was an apt metaphor for the annual spring ritual of coaxing his mechanics into working order.
"It's kind of like trying to get all the cylinders firing," Hill said. "Definitely today we had that going. I was much more consistent with the delivery, which leads to much more conviction with every pitch."
After two irritating Cactus League outings, Hill ventured to a field in the back of the Camelback Ranch complex to face a collection of Milwaukee Brewers farmhands. The minor leaguers gave him little trouble. He struck out 10 in five scoreless innings. He scattered two singles, gave up two walks and allowed a runner to reach third base only once.
The results matched how Hill felt. He could command his fastball, for the most part, which allowed him to finish off hitters with his curveball. Hill prides himself on the consistency of his effort, so he maintained his adrenaline despite pitching against lower-level competition on a dusty field in front of a sparse crowd.
"It's always going to be, for me, 100% effort," Hill said. "The more times you do something, the more consistent you can become at it. That's what leads to consistency out on the field. It's not like I'm going to practice at 50% and then go out at the field and all of a sudden turn it up to 100.
"I just don't believe in that. Some guys, maybe they do. But for me, it's always turned on."
Hill will stretch his arm out to six innings in his next outing. He is slated to be the No. 3 starter in the Dodgers rotation. He indicated he felt close to mechanically sound, and at an early date than he was last year, when he finished with a 2.12 earned-run average.
"I feel like I'm getting to where I need to be quicker than I was last year," he said.
Andre Ethier to have back examined
Outfielder Andre Ethier was scratched from Sunday's game against Team Japan because of lingering stiffness in his lower back. Manager Dave Roberts said Ethier would undergo an MRI examination Monday.
Ethier could not get loose Sunday, which triggered alarms for the training staff.
"That back is getting him still," Roberts said. "He's never had to deal with this in his career. This is all new to him, and for us. We're going to take it slow."
Roberts returns to team
Roberts returned to Camelback Ranch two days after leaving the team following the death of his father, Waymon.
"It's been a tough couple days," Roberts said. "But to get back to baseball, and something that I love, I know this is what he'd want. My mom was good with it. It's definitely good to be back here."
Bench coach Bob Geren managed the team in Roberts' absence. Roberts kept in touch with team officials during his time away. He plans to attend a service for his father on Thursday in Oceanside.
Waymon Roberts spent three decades in the Marines. He met his wife, Eiko, in Okinawa, Japan, where Dave was born in 1972. The family settled in San Diego in 1984, and lived there while Roberts played 10 years in the majors before ascending to his current perch as the first African American manager in Dodgers history.
"He did the best he could, he and my mom, for my sister and I," Roberts said. "I think he has a legacy, in me and my sister and his grandkids. He served his country for 30 years. I have some big shoes to fill.
"It was tough. But my players, the coaches, and fan support, it was amazing. It was amazing just to know how much you're loved."
Corey Seager to return to games 'soon'
Shortstop Corey Seager (oblique stiffness) took part in a full workout for the fourth day in a row. Roberts said Seager would be cleared to play in a game "soon," but he could not provide a timetable.
"I want to put eyes on him and talk to him," Roberts said. "Then I'll have a better idea what's realistic."
Seager is likely to receive a slew of at-bats in minor league games. Roberts suggested Seager needed only 15 to 20 plate appearances to be ready for the season.