Once Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers during the winter, it was evident who the club’s fourth starters would be come the postseason. Though, those best-laid plans immediately went awry.
Clayton Kershaw was twice shut down during Spring Training because of left shoulder trouble, and Rich Hill suffered a strained MCL in his knee late into camp. Prior to that indications were Hill likely was going to be selected for an Opening Day start.
He spent the first month of the season on the 10-day injured list but began to put together another impressive campaign. However, Hill’s momentum was halted when he suffered a strained flexor tendon in his left forearm on June 19.
Despite an extended absence, the plan was for Hill to make four starts during September and serve as the final member of the Dodgers’ rotation for the postseason. That appeared to be in jeopardy when Hill suffered a second MCL strain but he managed to continue pitching.
After another encouraging outing, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts strongly suggested Hill indeed would be the Game 4 starter, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
Roberts indicated that he “feels really good” about Hill pitching in Game 4 of the National League Division Series after a scoreless three-inning outing, void of the grimaces that accompanied his two-inning start in San Diego on Tuesday.
In his second return to the rotation this month, Hill allowed just one hit, walked two and struck out four in a combined five innings pitched over two starts.
Up until his remarks after Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants, Roberts had stuck by the notion the Dodgers would take an unorthodox approach with finding a fourth starter. The general assumption was the Dodgers would rely on a bullpen game.
That may still be likely scenario as Hill presumably would be limited to four innings — at least in a potential National League Division Series start. Of course, how the Dodgers’ rotation for the NLDS lines up before possibly getting to Hill remains unsettled.
Hyun-Jin Ryu presumably will start one of the first two games to capitalize on taking the mound at the Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have similarly been dominant at home as well, which further lends to the flexibility Roberts is confident the team has.