LOS ANGELES — Rich Hill took his latest step Saturday toward returning from a bedeviling blister injury.
Hill, the left-handed starter, threw a three-inning, 48-pitch simulated game at Dodger Stadium.
“From my eyes,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “he looked good.”
Hill was placed on the 10-day disabled list on April 17, meaning he would now be eligible to return. Yet, no firm timetable has been established for when the Dodgers can expect him to be back in the rotation.
Come Thursday, Hill will be sent on a minor league rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, tasked with throwing four innings and 60 pitches. For Roberts, how Hill feels after that point “will be very telling.”
“We’ll know more from that,” Roberts said of figuring a possible return date. “I don’t want to make that decision yet. It’s mostly, obviously, based on his finger. Once we we get past that hurdle, we’ll have more information.”
The blister has reoccurred on the tip of the middle finger on his left hand, affecting how Hill grips and releases a baseball. It also placed him on the DL a previous time this month, before his current stint.
Roberts noted that the blister held up during his simulated game Saturday afternoon.
Last winter, Hill, 37, signed a three-year, $48 million contract and was expected to buoy the Dodgers’ pitching staff, but has made just two starts. He had been acquired the previous August at the trading deadline in a trade with Oakland.
After the latest setback, Hill volunteered to move to the bullpen. The thinking? Perhaps pitching as a reliever would better allow for managing the nagging blister.
That option, though, isn’t in the immediate plans.
“I know we talked about it,” Robert said, “but for the short term and the near term, we’re going to build him back up as a starter and insert him when we feel he’s healthy and can sustain health.”
If Hill does return as a starter, the starting rotation would need to be re-adjusted. It at present includes six pitchers after Julio Urias made his season debut Thursday in San Francisco. There is no certain odd man out. Roberts has said he wants to keep Urias and Alex Wood starting. Kenta Maeda tossed seven solid innings Friday night. Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu are healthy. And there’s Clayton Kershaw.
“You don’t always think that it’s going to come to that point, where everyone is healthy,” Robert said. “That’s a good thing. But it creates difficult conversations.”
WHERE’S THE POP?
When Saturday began, the Dodgers had not seen either third baseman Justin Turner or first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who typically bat third and fourth in the lineup, hit a home run.
Asked if he was concerned about the power shortage from the heart of the batting order, Roberts said he was not.
On Turner, Roberts said, “He’s still a very, very productive player and helping us win games.”
Turner has doubled 10 times and is slugging .500.