The Los Angeles Dodgers avoided a doomsday scenario when Rich Hill was removed from his start on June 19, and though the left-hander avoided a UCL injury, he faced a lengthy recovery from what was diagnosed as a flexor strain.
An MRI on Hill’s forearm showed a UCL that was still intact and therefore Tommy John surgery would not be necessary. Hill nonetheless forecasted he would be sidelined four to six weeks. Well into that timetable, Hill is making progress with a throwing program.
“I threw today, 75 feet,” he told DodgerBlue.com on Monday. “Will take a day off, then throw 90 feet. Day off, throw 90, then back-to-back 90, and I think 120 after that. By next week I’ll be out to 120 feet.”
Hill hasn’t yet advanced to throwing curveballs, but anticipates starting to do so by the end of next week. “I’ll start introducing breaking balls and continue to create that stress on the flexor tendon,” he explained.
“Stress it and let it lay down some more. You’re continuing to create that pliability.”
More encouraging for the 39-year-old is there hasn’t been any sort of discomfort or setback since suffering the injury.“Nothing,” Hill said.
That’s allowed him to accelerate the process ever so slightly — Hill’s next throwing session was initially planned to be 75 feet rather than the now scheduled. “I’m kind of ahead of schedule a little bit, but not to the point where we’re going to push it,” Hill cautioned.
Once he reaches 120 feet, the next step would be to pitch off flat ground and advance to getting off a mound. The plan remains for Hill to return around the middle of September.
Whether it will afford Hill ample time to stretch back out as a starter remains unclear, but it’s also not necessarily a focal point. “For us, with Rich, it’s easy in the sense that we just want to let this process happen and get him as healthy as we can,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“Understanding that his health is most important for this year and beyond in his career. Where that is at the end of September, we will assess the role. He just wants to come back and contribute. With what he’s done for us in the postseason in years past, you know he can be a big-time contributor.”