There wasn’t much command to be had during the first inning at Petco Park on Tuesday night, which was more concerning for Rich Hill and the Los Angeles Dodgers than Ronald Bolaños and the San Diego Padres.
For Hill, the start was another attempt to overcome a strained MCL in his left knee. His return from the 60-day injured list was cut short after facing six batters and only recording two outs because knee trouble resurfaced.
Determined to pitch again this season and during the playoffs, Hill took to wearing a knee brace that helped alleviate stress and pain on his knee. He went into the series opener expected to throw two innings.
Hill started his night with a strikeout but appeared to aggravate his knee on the final pitch to Manuel Margot. A first-pitch strike to the next batter was followed by eight consecutive balls and two walks. That prompted Dylan Floro to begin warming up.
Hill covered first base on a force out at second and managed to get through the inning with a strikeout. Despite the apparent discomfort, the veteran batted for himself in the second inning and naturally lined a one-out double into left field.
He was stranded but somewhat surprisingly took the mound in the second inning and proceeded to strike out the side. Hill continued to limp around between pitches but had better command, which suggested he was better able to cope with the discomfort.
In getting Luis Urias swinging to end the second, Hill reached 1,000 career strikeouts. He went to the bullpen to continue building his pitch count.
Moreover, Hill has not allowed a hit in his 2.2 innings pitched since returning from the 60-day IL. What’s next is unclear, but the original plan called for the 39-year-old to start the regular-season series finale on Sunday.