The more things change, the more they stay the same. And for some fans of the Dodgers, that’s not a good thing. It would seem that having a team built to win the NL West once again and go deep into the playoffs would be a really good thing, but that’s not enough. Fans are hungry for a World Series win, and are tired of this really good team not making it.
So much so that fans are furious at the front office, and Rich Hill. And I get it. They just went out and plunked down $48M for this guy to go back on the DL with the same problem he had much of the time with the Dodgers last year. Why wasn’t the offseason long enough to heal his blister, fans ask? How is it going to get fixed now? Will he be able to pitch again? Who is going to take his place while he is down and out with blisteritis?
So many questions, but the good news is, we’re only three weeks into the season, and this is a very good, very deep team.
One person we know who will not be relacing Hill on the mound is Julio Urias. Last night after the game, skipper Dave Roberts told reporters that they are still going through the process with Julio, so he will not be an option. Urias made his second start at Triple-A Oklahoma City over the weekend, allowing one run on four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts in 4-2/3 innings pitched.
Alex Wood seems most likely to be spotted back into the rotation. He took Hill’s place during his first stint on the disabled list, pitching 3-2/3 innings and giving up one earned run with five walks and four strikeouts during his only start. Wood has been pitching very well in relief, and will do well as a starter as he is continuing to be stretched out to go further into games.
Which brings us to the next issue, the bullpen. So far this spring, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been outstanding, and currently has a 1.19 ERA. But they have been working a lot of innings. With Wood going back into the rotation, that leaves Ross Stripling as the lone long man. While it might not be a problem to have one long reliever, it could be an issue with this current starting rotation. Only Clayton Kershaw and Brandon McCarthy are pitching deep into games. Wood still needs conditioning, and so far Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda have trouble making it past the fifth inning.
Who will be brought replace Hill on the roster? Josh Fields was the one called up last time, and could be the one recalled this time. Fields appeared in four games, allowing one hit and one walk, while striking out six in innings of work.
Another thing that could help out the pitching staff? The Dodgers bats actually driving in runs. For the most part, they don’t have an issue getting on base, they just can’t drive the runs in. This is another hold over from last season, and another reason for Dodger fans to be disgruntled. But that’s a subject for another column.
What’s next for Rich Hill? A stint on the DL seems likely, although the length is uncertain. Once the blister heals, he could go into the bullpen as the long reliever. This would allow him to build up the skin on his finger, and leave the team with less worry about having to be taken out of the game. This is isn’t a great option, but it’s on the table. The other would be for Rich to make a few starts at Triple-A, where it’s not as much of an issue if he doesn’t go deep into games. Regardless of what happens, we’re most likely without him for the foreseeable future. While it’s not what you want to see from your newly paid starter, the good news is that this team is built to withstand issues such as this, and there is a lot of baseball left to play for this all to work itself out.