The front of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ postseason rotation is all but cemented as some combination of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. However, the fourth and final spot has been in flux ever since Rich Hill went down with a left forearm flexor strain in June.
Since then, the Dodgers have seemingly auditioned the likes of Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias. Upon accepting a 20-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, the plan called for Urias to stretch out as a starter during his workouts.
He returned from the restricted list to make two starts but has since been moved back to the bullpen. So too has Kenta Maeda, and Stripling appears poised to pitch in relief as well.
That brings the discussion back to Hill, who has not pitched in the Majors since his injury on June 20. Hill most recently threw two innings in a simulated game at Dodger Stadium last week.
The veteran left-hander is scheduled to start Thursday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles in the first of what’s expected to be four outings this month to prepare for the playoffs, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
Manager Dave Roberts has penciled in Hill for four starts this month, the last one scheduled for the Sept. 29 regular-season finale at San Francisco.
The Dodgers seem to be banking on Hill being able to return to the postseason rotation for the fourth year in a row, with Gonsolin or May the likely fallback option.
Hill has performed admirably in October since joining the Dodgers at the 2016 MLB trade deadline. He has a 2.66 ERA in 47.1 playoff innings, holding opponents to a .585 on-base plus slugging percentage.
His most notable playoff starts have come in the World Series, specifically Game 2 of the 2017 World Series and Game 4 in 2018. Hill was rolling in both outings, but Roberts opted to go to his bullpen early instead of riding his starter.
The move backfired both times as the bullpen blew the lead in eventual momentum-shifting Dodgers losses. Roberts was heavily criticized for his moves, especially in 2018 when President Donald Trump even weighed in on Twitter.
Roberts’ only response to the President’s critical commentary of his in-game strategy was to “consider the source,” alluding to Trump’s history of Twitter usage.