Lefty could make club debut next Saturday; Norris moves closer to return
By Jack Baer
LOS ANGELES -- After nearly a month away from pitching to hitters due to blisters on his pitching hand, Rich Hill will go on a rehab start Monday, and if all goes well, finally make his Dodgers debut next Saturday in Cincinnati.
The number of pitches Hill will throw and where he will throw them has not been decided, but manager Dave Roberts said it will likely be at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The southpaw threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Friday, his first time pitching off a mound since being acquired by the Dodgers.
"Go as hard as you can for as long as you can, that's my attitude," Hill said before Saturday's 8-4 Dodgers win over the Pirates. "That's the competitive part of going out there and staying in the moment and doing what you can do to the best of your ability, and that's all you can ask every single time you go out there."
Hill has twice been scheduled to make his Dodgers debut since being acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and has been pushed back both times due to a second blister on his finger. He also held off a bullpen session Monday, calling it a day after throwing on flat ground in a precautionary move that still resulted in missing a Friday start.
Before Saturday, Hill had said he wouldn't need a rehab start even though he hasn't pitched in any kind of game since July 17, and that last start lasted only five pitches before he was forced to exit when his first blister popped. After he missed another week, the team changed its mind.
"We thought through the last time he pitched in a Major League game," Roberts said. "It's been five weeks, something like that. With any pitcher to be out of Major League competition for that long, it only makes sense to get him a rehab start."
If Hill does make it back to the mound, he will be continuing a brilliant season. Through the first two months, he led the AL with a 2.25 ERA and had struck out 74 in 64 innings. Then a groin strain forced him to miss most of June, then he only made two full starts before the blister problem hit.
Hill's return would move Ross Stripling out of the rotation and back into the bullpen as a long reliever. The rookie has seen a multitude of roles, and that could continue if injury woes pop up in the rotation again.
"As of now, the way things have gone for us, things can be changed," Roberts said. "But as of now, it's one start and he pitched great. Where we're at for his role, out of the 'pen, given some length out of the 'pen, but if we need a start, he obviously can do that as well for us."
More pitching news
Hill isn't the only Dodger set to return during the next road trip, as both Bud Norris (back strain) and Adam Liberatore (left elbow inflammation) will make rehab starts at Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga.
Norris was slated to throw approximately 75 pitches Saturday, putting him on track to possibly return Thursday in Philadelphia.
Roberts declined to say whether Norris would return in a starting or relief role, but also declined to name a Thursday starter after Kenta Maeda on Tuesday and Scott Kazmir on Wednesday. Brandon McCarthy, who has seen recent struggles with fastball command, was next in line behind Kazmir. McCarthy left Saturday's start with right hip stiffness.
Liberatore will throw an inning Sunday and Tuesday and is also expected to return within the week.
Louis Coleman is playing catch and Roberts said he could be expected back around Sept. 1. Alex Wood remains on track to return in mid-September in a relief role.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.