As the Los Angeles Dodgers inch closer to officially clinching a seventh consecutive National League West title, the club will soon be tasked with constructing their best roster possible for what they hope is another deep postseason run.
Arguably the biggest question mark heading into September is who will occupy the final spot in a hypothetical four-man starting rotation after Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
Rich Hill appeared to have the edge entering the 2019 season, but he has been sidelined since the middle of June with a flexor strain in his left forearm. It was an unfortunate turn of events for the 39-year-old, who had been pitching well prior to suffering the injury.
However, Hill has already resumed throwing and cleared another hurdle on Saturday toward a potential return in September. Prior to the Dodgers’ second matchup with the New York Yankees, Hill threw his first bullpen session since landing on the 10-day injured list.
He anticipates being reinstated in two weeks as long as progress continues being made, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
Hill said he will throw two more bullpens and a live batting practice session before being reinstated. Hill estimated that will be in approximately two weeks.
With the Minor League season dwindling down, Hill won’t have the luxury of going on a rehab assignment prior to rejoining the Dodgers. He’ll navigate the month of September as if it were Spring Training, using each start or bullpen appearance to steadily regain stamina.
Though there was some uncertainty on whether Hill would have enough time to build back up as a starter before the end of the regular season, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has not ruled out the possibility.
Hill has expressed a willingness to help the Dodgers in any role come the playoffs, even if it means pitching out of the bullpen.
Should the southpaw indeed be asked to transition to a relief role, the club has plenty of other candidates to consider in regards to the fourth spot of their starting rotation.
Julio Urias is being stretched out as a starting pitcher while he serves the remainder of his 20-game suspension, while Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May could garner looks as well.