CLEVELAND — Rich Hill has been ruled out for Sunday’s start, meaning the A’s will decide whether to trade the veteran left-hander without the benefit of him being showcased one more time in front of scouts from interested teams.
Hill remains one of the most intriguing names on the market leading up to Monday’s 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. And with the Padres dealing Andrew Cashner to the Marlins on Friday, that takes another half-year “rental” starter off the market, perhaps forcing other pitching-hungry teams to focus more on Hill.
The issue is how much teams would be willing to give up for the 36-year-old given that a blister on his throwing hand has sidelined him for about two weeks now. The A’s decided to pull the plug on Sunday’s start in a discussion Thursday night between general manager David Forst, manager Bob Melvin and head trainer Nick Paparesta. Instead, Sonny Gray will start Sunday against the Indians on his regular four days’ rest.
Hill played long toss Friday and will throw off the mound Saturday, but he admitted the skin around his blister hasn’t toughened up enough to handle the rigors of throwing in an actual game.
Forst told CSN California on Thursday that he felt confident the A’s could still swing a trade for Hill, if they choose to go that route, even if he didn’t pitch this weekend. In a conference call with the Oakland press corps Friday afternoon, Forst addressed Hill’s status further.
“The deadline is Monday, and no matter what happens with Rich, there has been interest,” Forst said. “We’ve had conversations. We’re not just gonna give him away because he’s a potential free agent next year. … And who's to say we’re not interesting in keeping Rich beyond this year?”
That last sentence was in reference to a potential multi-year extension for Hill, who has been one of the American League’s best starters this season when healthy, posting a 9-3 record and 2.25 ERA in 14 starts. Still, it’s a seller’s market for starting pitching right now, with so many contenders needing it.
Multiple national reports surfaced Friday saying that the A’s and Dodgers have at least held discussions regarding a package deal that would send both Hill and right fielder Josh Reddick to Los Angeles. Reddick, also a free agent after this season, remains the A’s second-best trade chip behind Hill. The Dodgers have a loaded farm system with prospects that could entice the A’s, though it’s unknown if they would offer enough to pry away Hill and Reddick together.
Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi worked several years in the A’s front office under Forst and executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane, so there’s an established relationship there.
But all eyes are focused primarily on Hill, who is scheduled to try throwing off the mound Saturday to test the blister again. Regardless of how that goes, Melvin said the A’s may opt to place Hill on the disabled list Saturday. If they do, they could backdate the transaction 10 days, meaning Hill would be eligible to pitch next Friday. Pitchers can still be traded if they’re on the DL.
“It feels like we’re making very good progress with it,” Hill said of the blister Friday. “The only problem is, if we run out there and end up in a situation like we were last time. now we’re only pushing it back even more. And we’re already at two weeks up to this point. We don’t want that situation again.
“… The only thing I could compare it to is if you’re walking around without socks or shoes on, you start getting that hot feeling in your heel. (The best plan is) let it heal, build up, keep making progress without having (the blister) covered and continue to throw.”
Both Forst and Melvin said they would not send Hill to the mound in a game until he feels absolutely ready.
The only other injury update of note involved reliever Andrew Triggs, who is on the DL for a shin contusion. Triggs threw two scoreless innings in his second rehab outing for Triple-A Nashville Thursday. Once he’s ready to come off the DL, Oakland must decide whether to add him to the 25-man roster or option him.