As Rich Hill was working to sort through some command issues during Spring Training, he noted it wasn’t until a handful of starts into the 2016 regular season where he began to pitch effectively. Hill made progress toward that in his final tuneup, and carried it into Wednesday’s debut.
“Comparing it from last year, I’m far ahead where I was,” Hill said after throwing five innings against the San Diego Padres. “So that’s a real positive.” That there was a relatively quick hook — Kenta Maeda also went five innings on Tuesday — didn’t seem to bother Hill or Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s still early,” Hill said. “I feel good, we’re going in the right direction. Just continue to build off that and move forward.”
The 37-year-old was hit by a pitch on his right wrist in the bottom of the second inning. Hill was checked on by Roberts and head athletic trainer Nate Lucero before remaining in the game. Precautionary x-rays came back negative, and Hill later joked about feeling like a “baseball player.”
His getting plunked didn’t impact the length of the start. Roberts explained after the game he went in with a plan of removing Hill once he reached 75-85 pitches, and felt it best handing the ball to Sergio Romo to face the top of the Padres lineup in the sixth inning.
The southpaw threw 75 pitches over the five frames. Chief among them were multiple curveballs that had the usual bend and break accustomed to being seen from Hill. “I thought he had pretty good command of [the curveball],” Roberts said.
“There were a lot of close pitches that could have gone either way. For him to have the confidence and to repeat it, was good. He changed his arm slot, it seemed like.”
Hill used the time between his last spring start and regular-season debut to tinker with his delivery. He felt it yielded improved results when compared to the outing against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“I made a few mechanical adjustments and I was able to repeat,” Hill said. “Overall, I feel pretty good.”