Hill's long journey brings him to NLDS G2 start

Stuck in independent ball last summer, Dodgers lefty has worked his way back

Hill's long journey brings him to NLDS G2 start

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals weren't the only team to take a pass on Rich Hill. The veteran left-hander has spent time with 10 different organizations, but he hasn't yet cracked 100 career starts -- a journeyman in the truest sense.

But of the nine organizations Hill has left behind during his roller-coaster career, the Nationals might end up rueing their decision more than any other. That's because the man standing in their way Sunday is none other than the man they released last June.

In the spring of 2015, Hill couldn't crack the Washington bullpen. Fifteen months later, Hill gets the ball for the Dodgers in Sunday's Game 2 of the National League Division Series (1 p.m. ET, 10 PT, FS1) with a chance to give the Dodgers a commanding 2-0 lead.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 7 LAD 4, WAS 3 video
Gm 2 Oct. 9 WSH 5, LAD 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 WAS 8, LAD 3 video
Gm 4 Oct. 11 LAD 6, WAS 5 video
Gm 5 Oct. 13 LAD 4, WSH 3 video

Of course, Hill's mantra has long been to live in the moment. And preparation for Sunday's moment -- the biggest start of his career -- does not entail him looking back on the time he spent at the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse.

"[I] would have liked to have seen it work out here, sure, no doubt," Hill said of his time in the Nationals' organization. "... The offseason, I was very humbled by getting multiple opportunities to have Major League jobs to pitch for many teams, and I chose Oakland. I got a great opportunity with Oakland, and got traded here to L.A. and here we are."

Here we are indeed, Game 2 of the NLDS -- not exactly where many would've envisioned Hill last summer when, jobless, he spent time working out with the American Legion team he once played for in Milton, Mass. Ultimately, Hill signed with the Long Island Ducks in independent ball.

Hill on tough Nationals lineup

That's when he adjusted his arm angle and began throwing over the top. He knew right away that something had clicked.

Tale of the Tape: Hill vs. Roark in Game 2

"I knew after I had those two starts that there was something that, given the opportunity, could possibly happen," Hill said. "I mean, I felt that good. And then the Red Sox gave me the opportunity."

Hill signed a Minor League deal with the Red Sox and the rest is history.

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He made four starts for Boston in 2015, posting a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings. He then signed a one-year, $6 million deal with Oakland, before being acquired by the Dodgers along with Josh Reddick at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Of course, Hill's journey to the postseason wasn't without a few hiccups -- er, blisters -- along the way. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, Hill missed most of August because of a blister issue on his throwing hand.

Hill on blister remedies

How desperate was he to get back on the mound? Well, Hill had heard the rumor that peeing on your hands makes them tougher and helps to prevent blisters.

"You might as well try it, right?" Hill said with a sheepish grin. "I was desperate to do anything at that time."

Well, not quite anything. Hill also had a conversation with Sandy Scully, the wife of legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully. She told Hill, "Try vinegar."

So Hill soaked his finger in vinegar, and told Sandy Scully the next day that he had done so.

"She goes, 'Oh, you've got to add water to it, and then drink it,'" Hill said, chuckling. "Well, I haven't tried that one yet."

Of course, if Hill's blister flares up in the postseason, it'll be no laughing matter for the Dodgers.

But Hill isn't too concerned, noting that he's ready to work deep into the game, regardless of the fact that he hasn't thrown more than 93 pitches in a Dodgers uniform.

Hill's high-spin curve matches up well vs. Nats

"Is it bigger than any other? Of course, it's bigger than other games, it's the postseason," he said. "However, when you look at it from the standpoint of preparation, you prepare and prepare and prepare, so when you get to these moments, it's the same as a regular-season game."

That's the goal, at least, whether he's pitching for Syracuse, Long Island or Los Angeles in Game 2 of the NLDS.

"Somebody told me you prepare so the occasion rises to you -- not so that you have to rise to the occasion," said Hill, who has clearly taken those words to heart.

After a remarkable 15-month stretch, the biggest occasion of Hill's professional career rises to meet him Sunday.

AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.