Rich Hill preferred not to have traveled from Milwaukee to Arizona to make a second rehab start. He thought he was ready to come off the injured list after his first outing. His left knee was healthy and he believed he showed it in four scoreless innings for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday. Dodgers decision-makers thought otherwise so Hill left the Dodgers during their game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday to pitch in extended spring training.
And if there was any frustration, Hill released it against the youngsters he faced at Camelback Ranch on Monday. The 39-year-old left-hander posted 16 strikeouts in six innings. He compiled the total with “60-something” pitches, he said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. The two other outs came on groundballs. He allowed one hit, which he described as a “jam-shot single.”
“A lot of strikes, yeah,” Hill said before the Dodgers began a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. “A lot of strikes.”
Hill can only hope he’ll be as dominant when he comes off the injured list to make his season debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
“I’m ready to get out there,” Hill said. “I’m excited. Obviously, we’ve been playing great. … You want to be a part of it and contribute and earn your keep, so to speak.”
Hill sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in a Cactus League start in mid-March. The setback landed him on the injured list to start the season. The injury, Hill said, is behind him. He said he didn’t feel any pain Monday. He also didn’t feel discomfort from the brace he’s been instructed to use when on the mound, which initially had been a problem.
“The knee is great. It feels great,” Hill said. “I’ll wear the brace just because I don’t want to make it slip and then kick yourself for not wearing it. It’s very light. … It’s almost like it’s not there sometimes, especially when it’s put on correctly.”
Barring an unforeseen development, Ross Stripling will move to the bullpen with Hill’s return, further bolstering a relief corps that recently added Julio Urias from the rotation. Stripling will make a final start before the move Thursday against the Cubs..