WASHINGTON — Rich Hill’s travels from journeyman to All-Star took a detour through Central Islip. An important one.
Hill, who will start Game 2 for the Dodgers in their NLDS matchup with the Nationals on Sunday, was trying to transition from a sidearming lefthanded relief specialist to an over-the-top starting pitcher when he signed with the Long Island Ducks in late July 2015.
Hill made two dominant starts for the Ducks. He threw five no-hit innings in his first outing and struck out 14 in his second. Overall, he threw 11 shutout innings and struck out 21 against Atlantic League foes.
That got the attention of the Boston Red Sox, who signed Hill on Aug. 10, 2015. Hill started four games for the Red Sox, going 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA, which set him up to sign a one-year, $6-million free-agent contract with the Oakland A’s. He hadn’t started a big-league game since 2009.
Hill, 36, went 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA for Oakland and made the American League All-Star team. He was dealt to the Dodgers at the trade deadline and went 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA while battling blister problems.
On Sunday, he will try to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead over the Nationals in the best-of-five series after Saturday’s game was rained out.
Oh, the last organization that employed Hill before he signed with the Ducks? The Nationals, who released him in June 2015.
“Would have liked to have seen it work out here, sure, no doubt,” Hill said. “And then from there, I was at home for about a month, and you know, working out with the American Legion team that I grew up playing for. You know, playing catch every day, working out. I threw a couple longer bullpens. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks that I was at home that I decided to start changing my arm angle and throwing over the top again.
“And I felt strong. I was able to repeat, repeat and be consistent with my release point. So I threw a few 75-pitch bullpens and made the decision to go to Long Island and start again. And made two starts there, felt good. Body felt strong. Was able to repeat my delivery. Was able to have the ball come out of my hand the way that I wanted to for those two starts.
“And I knew after I had those two starts that there was something that, given the opportunity, could possibly happen. I mean, I felt that good.”