Dodgers: Rich Hill looks ready to return in High-A rehab start
From the third base side of the rubber, Rich Hill kicked his leg up towards his chest, threw the ball, grunted and kicked his leg again. The ball blew past the outmatched minor leaguer who could do nothing more than swing and pray he’d make contact with the big leaguer’s pitches. For Hill, despite playing competition far below him, the game was a marker providing his readiness to rejoin the Dodgers.
“I don’t know what the numbers said or what the spin rates were,” Hill said. “I know how the ball is supposed to come out of my hand. I’m ready.”
Ready is a simple and apt description for a couple of things.
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One, Hill’s sheer performance against a High-A baseball team was indicative of just how prepared he was for a return. In four innings, Hill struck out eight batters and allowed just two hits while walking none.
A scout in attendance for Hill’s performance simply used the word “vintage” to describe how his pitches looked in what will now be a single rehab start before rejoining the Dodgers in Chicago.
Should vintage be what the team gets, they are in for something great. In 2019 Hill ranked in the 95th percentile in both fastball and curveball spin rates.
He used those pitches to perfection and the numbers backed it up. But, what they don’t show is that those numbers are compoundable. Hill’s deception comes in the form or arm angels. He’ll lower his arm slot and raise it to create more deception and variation on his pitches.
Add elite spin rates to that and Hill’s vintage look is deadly, something fans were able to see in 2016 with the A’s and in spots of the last few years with the Dodgers.
“Ready” is also a term best used to describe a Dodger rotation that will get the veteran back on the mound in the very near future.
Upon returning, LA’s starting five will no longer include Julio Urias but will instead look something like Clayton Kershaw, Ross Stripling, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler; add Ryu back to the mix and the rotation is one of if not the best in baseball.
Overall though, the peak into Hill’s 2019 form in his four-inning appearance with the Quakes is one of relief. A healthy Rich Hill is an effective Rich Hill and that is exactly what the Dodgers are looking for as they try and expand their lead over and NL West that has the Padres jousting with the Dodgers for first place.