While the Los Angeles Dodgers came away with first victory of the season against the Miami Marlins, plenty of discussion ensued in the process. And manager Dave Roberts was once again at the center of a controversial decision.
In just his third start with the Dodgers, Rich Hill was perfect through seven innings. He’d thrown just 89 pitches and largely exerted minimal effort while the Marlins struggled to so much as make solid contact.
Hill also had nine strikeouts through seven innings, which included striking out the side at point to fan five consecutive batters.
While Hill seemed poised to continue his attempt at history, Roberts had a bigger picture in remind, and replaced the southpaw with Joe Blanton to start the eighth. The combined perfect game was lost three batters later.
The decision to remove Hill was done after Roberts consulted with the left-hander, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and trainers. Roberts admitted to an unsettling feeling in his stomach after the game.
On Sunday he reiterated the difficulty that came with making such a decision, but further maintained it was a necessary one, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“We’ve talked about the ‘team-first’ from the beginning of Spring Training, and for me to put any one player’s individual success — as amazing and great as it would have been — ahead of the team to potentially compromise our goal, I think I would lose credibility,” the Dodgers’ manager said.
Hill said after the game he understood being removed in light of the club’s goal of playing deep into October. However, the 36-year-old also said there weren’t any issues with his blister.
Roberts clarified his previous remarks that Hill’s left middle finger was cause for removal:
“Richie said the blister wasn’t affecting him, and that was true, he was throwing well,” Roberts said. “Talking to the trainer, the blister — from a medical viewpoint — and he sees tenderness, those are symptoms that the trainer, as he’s gotten familiar with Rich and the blister, the next step is a blister that presents itself. Knowing that, what the usage is and what it’s taken as far as extra rest between starts and knowing he’s on regular rest his next two starts, with the information given and what my eyes told me, that was the decision.”
Saturday’s controversial decision was the second Roberts made this season with history hanging in the balance. Because of a predetermined pitch count, he was forced to remove Ross Stripling from 7.1 no-hit innings against the San Francisco Giants.
The start was also Stripling’s Major League debut. Like Hill, Stripling was in agreement with the decision to come out of the game. With the Dodgers having set the MLB record for most players put on the disabled list in a single season, another injury may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Especially if it were to come to Hill, who’s expected to co-lead the rotation come the postseason. He’s thrown 19 scoreless innings in three starts for the Dodgers, and is expected to take the mound on regular rest in his next two turns.