For the fifth time in the not even two full years Rich Hill has been employed by the Dodgers, he is on the disabled list because of a blister. He is convinced there is something different about the baseball these days, so he was interested to hear that the league had commissioned a study.
On Thursday, the results came back: There indeed is something different about the baseball. It is flying greater distances off the bat. The ball is not juiced, the scientists said, but otherwise they are not entirely sure what is going on.
Hill was not terribly impressed. He believes the ball used in recent years contributes to the formation of blisters, and he still has not heard the league step up and take responsibility, or propose corrective action.
“I don’t care if the balls are juiced and they’re going another 20 feet or whatever,” Hill said Friday. “That’s great for baseball. People like home runs.”
However, Hill said, when players sign autographs, they notice that the ink is not absorbed the same in each baseball. And the list of pitchers to experience blister issues over the past two years is long and distinguished, including Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani, Johnny Cueto of the San Francisco Giants, Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets, and Cy Young Award winners Jake Arrieta, Corey Kluber and David Price.
“It is an issue that is going on,” Hill said, “and it has to be solved for the health and safety of the pitchers.”
After Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays developed blisters last year, Stroman said this: “I feel like it’s an epidemic that's happening across the big leagues now, a bunch of pitchers getting blisters, guys who have never had blisters before. So for MLB to turn their back to it, I think that's kind of crazy.”
Hill has kept his arm in shape by throwing with the blister covered by tape, but a pitcher cannot use tape during a game. He does not understand why the league could not let a pitcher cover a finger with tape so long as an umpire checks for foreign substances.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Hill and team officials have inquired about the possibility of a waiver, trying to assure the league this was about making sure Hill’s finger did not split open and gush blood, not about gaining a competitive advantage. The Dodgers do not expect the league to grant a waiver.
“He has reached out,” Roberts said, “and we’ve reached out, and wanted to see if there’s some way we can have a conversation.”
When the Dodgers put Hill on the disabled list Sunday, Roberts said he expected Hill would miss at least four weeks. Hill has kept on throwing, albeit with his finger taped, and he said he would participate in a simulated game Saturday.
“That’s what I’ve heard,” Roberts said. “Rich is very antsy right now.”
On one hand, Roberts said, Hill is maintaining arm strength by continuing to throw, and the pitcher says the blister is healing. On the other hand, Roberts said, the Dodgers cannot have any idea about when Hill might return until he can pitch without the finger taped, and do so repeatedly without a blister hampering him.
“As an organization, we’re going to make sure he is good and well before we activate him,” Roberts said.
Said Hill: “I don’t enjoy sitting here being paid and not producing. I don’t like that at all. I like playing. I’m passionate about playing.”
Clayton Kershaw could return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week. He is scheduled to throw four innings in a simulated game Saturday, and the Dodgers have not ruled out activating him thereafter, rather than sending him on a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Friday marked the 10th anniversary of Kershaw’s major league debut. His 2.37 ERA is the best in the majors in that span, and his dominant decade includes a no-hitter, an MVP award, three Cy Young Awards, seven consecutive top-five Cy Young finishes, and seven consecutive All-Star appearances.