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Hill sharpens his 2 pitches in first spring start

Dodgers lefty works 3 innings with 4 K's, 1 run vs. Indians
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You only needed the sense of hearing a year ago to know that Rich Hill was having a tough Spring Training, because every outing he would berate himself at a decibel level that reached all corners of the Valley of the Sun.

So far this spring he's been quietly efficient, as demonstrated on Monday with three effective innings in the Dodgers' 8-1 win over the Indians. Hill credits beginning his offseason throwing program earlier and simplifying his focus on his two best pitches, the fastball and curve.

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- You only needed the sense of hearing a year ago to know that Rich Hill was having a tough Spring Training, because every outing he would berate himself at a decibel level that reached all corners of the Valley of the Sun.

So far this spring he's been quietly efficient, as demonstrated on Monday with three effective innings in the Dodgers' 8-1 win over the Indians. Hill credits beginning his offseason throwing program earlier and simplifying his focus on his two best pitches, the fastball and curve.

View Full Game Coverage

"I have two pitches I'm very good at, and I want to continue to improve and make those strengths extremely strong and not waver from that," Hill said. "I didn't tinker with third pitches. Sometimes when you focus on your weakness, you'll impair your strengths. Make your strengths extremely strong."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Hill believes resuming throwing in mid-November, instead of mid-December the previous offseason, has made his infamous finger blisters history. And even though he has two basic pitches, he can tweak their velocities and release angles to replicate an expanded repertoire.

"This year things are much more cleaned up and efficient," he said. "As I've gotten older and understand what's best for me, I see a consistence in the way I throw, I see the carry of the ball. Creativity builds and grows from that. You can shape the curveball, and that comes as the season goes along. You can accelerate and decelerate the fastball."

Dodgers Spring Training info

Baby steps
All-Star shortstop Corey Seager finally began throwing to bases on Monday. He is further behind than he'd hoped as he rebuilds arm strength after ending last season with an elbow injury and deciding to rehab instead of undergo offseason surgery.

Seager said he hopes to play defense in a game by the end of the week. Manager Dave Roberts initially said that sounded aggressive, but softened the stance and said it was possible. In addition to uncertainty over his throwing arm, Seager is batting only .167 after striking out in all three at-bats Monday.

Roberts said Seager needs seven to 10 games of defense and around 60 at-bats to be ready for Opening Day. Seager will likely get most of that in spring Minor League games, which can be better controlled, Roberts said. Seager knows the drill, having overcome a knee injury in the spring of 2016 and an oblique injury last spring.

"He's kind of gaming the system a little bit," Roberts joked.

Camp battle
Matt Kemp continues to look like the Matt Kemp of old, launching his third home run of the spring on Monday, starting in left field and going 1-for-3 with a strikeout. Kemp is batting .313. Other left-field contenders who played: Alex Verdugo came off the bench with a two-run homer; Joc Pederson started in center and went 1-for-3 with an RBI double; Trayce Thompson started in right and went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout.

Video: CLE@LAD: Verdugo slugs a two-run homer in 8th

At catcher, Yasmani Grandal began the spring 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts. Since then, he is 3-for-8, with his second home run on Monday.

Injury updates
• Catcher Austin Barnes, slowed by a sore elbow, will be behind the plate Tuesday for his first game.

Dylan Baker has been backed off from throwing because of "arm fatigue," according to Roberts. Baker was acquired from the Twins for cash and has had arm injuries and multiple surgeries over the past four years.

Spitzbarth update
By this time last spring, Shea Spitzbarth had come over from the Minor League side and appeared in three Cactus League games. He wasn't seen this year until Monday, when he wandered over in shorts to watch a few innings of the morning "B" game.

Spitzbarth reports he's healthy, but was told by club officials to take it slow this spring after a 2017 season in which he made 43 appearances at Class A Advanced and Double-A, then 10 more in the Arizona Fall League.

The 23-year-old right-hander from tiny Molloy College in New York said he's still hoping he can get into a Cactus League game despite the slow start.

Familiar visitors
Juan Castro, the Dodgers' quality assurance coach last year and now the director of operations for the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League, visited Camelback Ranch.

And the Chinatrust Brothers from Taiwan are at Camelback Ranch to play against the Minor League teams. Their manager is former Dodger Cory Snyder and the hitting coach is former big leaguer Jim Presley.

Up next
Wilmer Font, who is out of options, gets another start on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. PT against the Cubs and former Dodgers Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow at Mesa. Also scheduled to throw are Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia, who are catching up after stricken by last week's virus.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. Listen to his podcast.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Rich Hill