Dodgers’ Rich Hill set for rehab start after blister holds in three-inning simulated game
Rich Hill, on the 10-day disabled list for the second time this month because of a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, threw a three-inning, 48-pitch simulated game Saturday.
“I thought it was successful,”manager Dave Roberts said. “The blister held up.”
The veteran left-hander threw his fastball and curve with maximum effort. The curve, which Hill grips at the seams and snaps off violently, creates most of the friction that leads to the blisters.
Barring setback, Roberts said Hill will throw four innings and about 60 pitches in a rehabilitation start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga against visiting Inland Empire on Thursday night and return to the rotation in the second week of May.
The Dodgers had toyed with the idea of moving Hill, who has made 127 relief appearances over his 12-year big league career, to the bullpen, where limited pitch counts might prevent a recurrence of the blisters.
“I know we talked about it,” Roberts said, “but with where we’re at right now, for the short term, we’re going to build him back up as a starter and insert him when we feel that he’s healthy and can sustain health.”
Roberts said the Dodgers will stick with their current six-man rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu through next weekend’s series at San Diego, but he would like to return to a five-man rotation soon.
Hill, who went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA in six starts after last summer’s trade from Oakland, is the Dodgers’ second-best pitcher behind Kershaw, and Urias, the 20-year-old left-hander, is probably third-best.
McCarthy entered Saturday night’s start with a 3-0 record and 2.25 ERA, Ryu (0-4, 4.64 ERA) threw six innings of one-run, five-hit ball in his last start, and Maeda rebounded from a shaky start with Friday night’s seven-inning, two-run, five-hit effort in which he struck out eight and walked one.
Wood is expected to return to the bullpen, and Hill’s return could push another starter out of the rotation. Left-hander Scott Kazmir, who spent the first four months of 2016 in the rotation, is also working his way back from a hip injury.
“When we put this roster together, we knew that depth was there, especially in the rotation,” Roberts said. “You don’t always think it’s going to come to that point where everyone is healthy. That’s a good thing, but it creates difficult conversations.
“Yeah, Scott is coming, Kenta had a big start [Friday], that’s good to see, and Rich is on his way back. I don’t know how it’s gonna play out in the next couple of weeks, but I know that there are gonna be some tough decisions.”
The Dodgers reinstated left-hander Grant Dayton (rib-cage strain) from the DL before the game and optioned right-hander Josh Fields (1.29 ERA in nine games) to triple-A Oklahoma City. … Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, on the DL since April 12 because of a left-hamstring strain, began a rehab assignment with Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday. He is expected to be activated Tuesday. … The Dodgers signed utility player Max Muncy to a minor league deal and assigned him to triple A. Muncy, 26, released by Oakland this spring, hit .195 over 245 big league plate appearances with the A’s over the last two seasons.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna