The Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation, which had become one of the best in baseball, was dealt a significant blow on June 19 when Rich Hill suffered a flexor strain in his left forearm.
Hill will not be allowed to throw a baseball for at least two more weeks, and the nature of the injury often leads to setbacks in rehab or more serious arm troubles down the line. Initially, Hill was not potentially expected back until the beginning of August at the earliest.
That changed in some regard with the Dodgers transferring him to the 60-day injured list. Hill is not eligible to be activated until Aug. 19, though manager Dave Roberts added it may not be reasonable to anticipate a return before September.
Though, that’s not indicative of Hill’s ability to overcome a challenge. “Rich is a very driven guy,” Roberts recently said.
“Obviously, nature’s got to take its course and the healing process has to happen. I expect him to dominate the rehab process but right now there’s really nothing he can do outside of let the body heal.”
Roberts did admit there is some concern given the nature of Hill’s injury, as flexor strains are often precursors to Tommy John surgery.
“I think any time you’re kind of talking about a pitcher’s arm and that region, there’s a little bit of holding your breath,” Roberts acknowledged. “Right now, I don’t want to get too far out ahead with my emotions.”
Hill had pitched well since returning from a knee injury suffered just before the start of the season. He currently holds a 2.55 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 10 starts in 2019.
Hill was slotted to become an overqualified fourth starter in the postseason behind All-Stars Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. At 39 years old, he is also a valuable veteran presence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
Teammates have long praise Hill’s fiery, ultra-competitive nature on the field. “To lose him, the way he’s been pitching, is disheartening anyway you look at it,” Roberts said.
“He’s a big part of what we’re doing right now, moving forward, so to have him be shut down for three to four weeks, when he does get back he’ll make us better. Right now, at least we know the prognosis and just have to go from there.”
Ross Stripling, who made the 2018 National League All-Star team as a starter, has been tabbed to fill in for Hill. Having been used exclusively as a reliever since April, though, Stripling has not exceeded 4.2 innings in either of his two starts thus far.