Dodgers Will Not Move Rich Hill to Bullpen to Help Blister Issue

The Dodgers reportedly considered moving Rich Hill to the bullpen to try to help ease his persistent blister problems, but he will instead return to the rotation.

It’s the question that’s plagued the Los Angeles Dodgers since virtually the moment they traded for Rich Hill: Is there any way to solve his blister woes? The veteran left-hander missed significant time last season with the issue, limited to 20 starts on the year between the Oakland A’s and Dodgers.

Now, less than five months after signing a three-year deal to stay in L.A. last December, Hill is already back on the disabled list due to the recurrence of those nagging blisters on his left hand. He tossed only eight innings in two appearances this month amidst two separate trips to the 10-day DL.

The Dodgers have been thoroughly puzzled by the problem, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, especially since Hill breezed through Spring Training without any blister issues. Manager Dave Roberts said “everything’s on the table” when it comes to solving the mystery, including a temporary role change for the southpaw:

“Rich, to his credit, is open to anything to help us. If it’s to potentially put him in the ‘pen to pitch for a couple innings to get him back out there … that might potentially keep that situation at bay. To his credit, he’s open to it. But number one I think we’re going to give him some time away and evaluate after that.”

Roberts made those comments a couple weeks ago, and with Hill’s potential return drawing closer, it seems the Dodgers have elected not to put him in the bullpen. The L.A. Times’ Mike DiGiovanna reports that the club has set up a rehab outing for Hill next week and will keep him in the rotation when he’s ready to come back.

A journeyman through most of his 13-year big league career, Hill has plenty of experience pitching as a reliever. But it makes sense that the Dodgers want to use their $48 million investment in his intended capacity.

What makes the relentless blisters so frustrating is that the 37-year-old Hill has been absolutely dominant when able to take the mound. A real renaissance story, Hill first began to turn heads with an impressive four-start cameo for the Red Sox at the end of 2015.

He turned that into a one-year deal with the A’s, who hoped to flip him for a solid haul at the deadline. They were successful, sending Hill and Josh Reddick to the Dodgers for a package headlined by minor league righty Jharel Cotton.

Since arriving in L.A., Hill has pitched to a sparkling 2.13 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 4.60 K/BB ratio – albeit through only eight starts and 42.1 innings. He was able to make three outings in last year’s postseason, to somewhat mixed results. Hill posted a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings overall, but didn’t pitch beyond the fifth frame in either of his first two starts.

The Dodgers took a major chance in signing Hill to a three-year contract. They bet not only that he would maintain his superior performance level, but also that he would stay healthy. So far, so good on the former. But the latter has been much more of a struggle.

As it stands, Hill should be able to take the mound in a Dodgers uniform again in early May. He might not be a guy who can provide 30 starts a season (a feat he achieved only once in his career in 2007), but the club will hope he can keep the blisters at bay well enough to give them an acceptable return on their investment.

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