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Numbers aside, Hill satisfied with spring

Dodgers lefty allows 4 runs (3 ER) in final tuneup before regular season
March 27, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- If an uneven spring weighed on Dodgers left-handed starter Rich Hill, it hardly showed Monday night.It was not a spring to remember for the veteran, who gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in five innings of his spring finale, a 4-1 loss to the

LOS ANGELES -- If an uneven spring weighed on Dodgers left-handed starter Rich Hill, it hardly showed Monday night.
It was not a spring to remember for the veteran, who gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits in five innings of his spring finale, a 4-1 loss to the Angels. In his previous three Cactus League starts this spring, he was 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA.
Particularly forgettable was a March 15 outing against the Royals, when Hill gave up six earned runs in one-third of an inning. During his last outing March 20 against the A's, he gave up one run on three hits with three strikeouts in five innings.
But spring is not where memories are made. Hill is now lined up to start Sunday evening at home against the Giants in a nationally televised game.
"That's one of the objectives of Spring Training, to get your work in," Hill said. "I hate to use that term 'get your work in,' because you're out there competing and you're trying to come out of it on the other end with a win, but removing yourself from the results and focusing in on the pitch process was something that was good today."
Sure pitch quality matters, but the Dodgers seemed satisfied that Hill hit the 79-pitch mark Monday.
"You look at the stat line, and it hasn't been a great spring for him, but it's not indicative of how he's throwing the baseball," manager Dave Roberts said. "And I do believe that his pitch count got up there where it needs to be heading into his start against the Giants."
Hill confirmed the rumor that he had been working on a split-finger pitch in his previous spring outing on a back field in Arizona. And while he didn't throw any split-finger pitches Monday, he said it's something that could see time in a game this season.
"I'll just continue to work on it in bullpens and be creative with it as the game goes on," Hill said. "As the games go on for me, a third time through the lineup, the creativity and the feel for that gets better as the game goes on. I think it's possible that it's something we work into games moving forward.
New look at Dodger Stadium
Dodgers fans got their first look at new safety netting at Dodger Stadium that extends from the far end of the third-base dugout all the way to the far end of the first-base dugout.
Not only does the safety netting extend from third base all the way around to first base, it is also as high as the netting behind home plate. No longer can players flip baseballs to fans directly behind the dugouts.
The deep blue "Kirk Gibson Seat" in the right-field pavilion was on full display for the first time.
The Gibson seat is making its Dodger Stadium debut 30 seasons after one of the most iconic home runs in World Series history. A hobbled Gibson crushed an improbable two-run home run against A's reliever Dennis Eckersley giving the Dodgers an unexpected Game 1 victory and the momentum they needed to win the title in five games. Ticket proceeds from the seat will go toward raising funds for Gibson's foundation that is committed to fighting Parkinson's disease.
That 1988 team is the last Dodgers club to win a World Series. The 2017 club was the first for the Dodgers to advance to a World Series since then.
"Do we want to have our own [championship] memories? Absolutely," Roberts said. "Is it a special, special moment in Dodgers history, from a great player and a great Dodger? Absolutely. I think it's great that the Dodgers organization did that for Dodgers fans and for Kirk."
Close call
The Dodgers received a scare in the third inning when catcher Austin Barnes was hit on his glove hand by a swing from the Angels' Michael Trout. The play was ruled catcher's interference and Trout was awarded first base.
Barnes dropped his glove and shook his hand back and forth, earning a visit from a Dodgers trainer. He remained in the game, but Yasmani Grandal will start at catcher in the spring finale on Tuesday.
Setup role remains wide open
With the season about to begin, the Dodgers do not have a designated eighth-inning pitcher to get the ball to closer Kenley Jansen, but that is not uncommon in the Roberts era.
Joe Blanton didn't emerge as the setup man until after the 2016 season started. And '17 setup man Brandon Morrow wasn't even on the Opening Day roster. Right-hander Tom Koehler was a possibility for that eighth-inning spot in 2018, but a shoulder injury has him sidelined.
So Roberts will do what he has done the past two seasons.
"Until somebody kind of steps forward … it's kind of a wait-and-see type of thing," Roberts said.
Up next
Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu will take the mound for the Dodgers on Tuesday against Angels right-hander JC Ramirez in the final exhibition game for both teams. First pitch from Dodger Stadium is 7:10 p.m. PT. The game will be available on MLB.TV.

Doug Padilla is a contributor to