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Former Cubs lefty Rich Hill signs with Indians

By bullpenbrian - February 23, 2013 - 9:00 am 2 comments.

Rich Hill Cubs

In a very Cub-like move, the Indians have signed former Cub Rich Hill to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2011.

Boston, however, deserves credit for saving Hill’s once promising career as a starter. The Red Sox lowered his arm angle and transitioned him to a full-time reliever in 2010. *(Hill did pitch some relief innings at Triple-A with St. Louis, but never reached the majors)

During the past three seasons, all with Boston, Hill is (2-0, 1.14 ERA) in 40 games–including 25 games last season after recovering from TJS. 

Despite a solid season with the Cubs in 2007, in which Hill made 32 starts, pitched 195.0 innings and won 11 games, he lost the confidence of Sweet Lou the following season by walking 18 batters in 19.2 innings of his first five starts. The Cubs subsequently optioned Hill to Triple-A Iowa, where he finished out the ‘08 season, and his career with the Cubs.

Baltimore took a flyer by purchasing Hill from Chicago in Feb. 2009. But the southpaw pitched even worse with the Orioles, winning just three games in 13 starts while posting a 7.80 ERA. Then Boston came calling, made a few alterations and wound up with a decent bullpen arm.

It’s a bit surprising Boston let the 32-year-old go, which could now prove a big steal for Cleveland, if, in fact, Hill has fully recovered from his elbow injury. And that’s exactly what the Cubs are hoping for with recent Tommy John Club members Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Chang-yong Lim.

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Best For Cubs Brian Roberts Trade Never Happened

By bullpenbrian - January 18, 2013 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Remember all the Brian Roberts to the Cubs rumors?
How can you forget, right?

Chicago coming off its dreadful 2006 campaign was in need of a second baseman for new manager Lou Piniella. Roberts, Baltimore’s slick-fielding, switch-hitting two-time All Star seemed the perfect fit.

Jim Hendry and Andy McPhail reportedly discussed a trade for Roberts, but of course a deal never came to fruition. However, the rumors lingered throughout the 2008 season with word Hendry’s unwillingness to come off top prospects Felix Pie or Tyler Colvin had stymied the talks. Not to mention, a Cubs package including Sean Marshall or Sean Gallagher, plus another prospect, seemed unreasonable to McPhail’s liking.

Whoa!  What?

As frustrating as the stalemate was at the time, the Cubs clearly dodged what would’ve likely been a disastrous trade. While Marshall developed into one of the premier left-handed relievers in all of baseball, Roberts slipped into an unfortunate spiral of nagging injuries that’s limited him to just 115-games during the past three seasons.

The Cubs, meanwhile, managed back-to-back division titles in ’07-’08 with Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot splitting second base duties. The addition of Roberts in either season couldn’t have hurt the Cubs, but he probably wasn’t the difference maker come October and he certainly wouldn’t have been worth another one of Hendry’s over-priced, back-loaded contract offerings; which was practically a given for Roberts considering the way Hendry was spending those days.

Now 35, Roberts is heading into the final season of his 4-year, $40M deal with Baltimore. Per the usual, however, he’s also recovering from injuries including two offseason surgeries, one a sports hernia, the other a torn labrum in his right hip.

As the old saying goes, sometimes the best trade is no trade…and wouldn’t you know, the Cubs traded Pie to Baltimore anyway in 2009 for – wait for it – Hank Williamson & Garrett Olson. Oh how quickly things can change, for
better or for worse.

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Regular Season Success Means Little In October

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 4:15 pm Leave a comment.

Four teams won 90-plus games after finishing the 2011 season below .500: Nationals (98), Reds (97), Athletics (94) & Orioles (93)–a first in major league history. But, not a one remains in this year’s postseason.

The Orioles, despite a convincing 5-1 win against Texas in the AL play-in game, fell victim to Yankee Stadium’s postseason magic. Or in other words, they blew it.

Baltimore not only let Raul Ibanez beat them once, but twice in Game 3…and then floundered with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth with the tying and winning runs aboard against CC Sabathia in a decisive Game 5.

The Yankees left the door wide open for the O’s to take the series. Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and A-Rod went a combined 9-for-75 (.120) with 26 strikeouts. Baltimore, however, went 8-for-37 with RISP, the worst mark in the AL in the Division Series.

The A’s, conversely, just couldn’t get on base against the Tigers, whose 88 regular season wins were the fewest among AL playoff teams. Granted, the A’s did face Justin Verlander twice, but the Athletics had the fewest hits (30) and most strikeouts (50) of any team in either league in the Division Series.

Cincinnati inexplicitly lost its Division Series after winning the first 2-games on the road at San Francisco, allowing the Giants to become the first-ever National League team to recover from an 0-2 deficit after losing the first 2-games. Not to mention, the Reds had 3 straight home games to close the series in this year’s 2-3 format, but failed to do so.

The Giants hit .185 with RISP for the series, the worst mark of any postseason team in 2012. The Reds, meanwhile, had the highest NL average with RISP (.220), but didn’t drive in runs when it mattered most, including having the tying runs aboard in the final four innings in Game 5.

Ah, then the Nationals, who now famously will be remembered for not only shutting down its best power-arm before the postseason, but also allowing St. Louis to overcome the largest-ever deficit in a winner-take-all game…rallying from 6-runs down in Game 5–four of which were plated in the top of the ninth.

So what does it all mean? Basically, the regular season means little, if anything, when it comes to postseason baseball. Some teams, like St. Louis and New York live for moment, and some teams, like the four above, crumble under the pressure. How else do you explain the slumping Bombers and cockroach Cardinals advancing?

The Reds, with arguably the most formidable bullpen in the majors, were suppose to be battle tested after being swept out of the Division Series in 2010 against the Phillies. The Orioles were figured to be battled tested having survived the tough AL East. Oakland was riding the huge momentum from its thrilling season ending sweep vs. Texas to win the AL West…and the Nationals entered the tournament with the most wins in all of baseball (98).

And not one of them has anything to show for it—eliminated, finished, collapsed.

It’s the teams that advanced who understand the postseason is not the same as the grind of a 162-game regular season schedule, but rather the awareness, ability and determination to not let a summer’s worth of hard work be undone.

Hey, 90-plus wins coming off a losing season, that’s nothing to sneeze at…we’re all happy for ya. But to actually make those wins mean something…you’ve got to make them count in October.

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MLB Playoffs Best In Years

By bullpenbrian - October 12, 2012 - 2:15 am Leave a comment.

The baseball playoffs couldn’t be any better. Dramatic finishes, unlikely heroes and for the first time in Division Series play each series has gone 5-games.

Thank goodness the Nationals and Orioles won on Thursday. It can only get better if both teams win again today eliminating the Cardinals and Yankees.

Meanwhile, what a terrific and improbable comeback for the Giants. They win three-straight to become the first team in the National League to advance in the Division Series after trailing 0-2…and they sweep the Reds at Great American Ballpark to do it, no less.

Moneyball officially filed for bankruptcy, losing a decisive Game 5 to Detroit. It does little to diminish what became a surprising and thrilling season for the Athletics, who were hardly picked to have a winning season, let alone win the AL West.

Unfortunately, I was pulling for the A’s to make a deep run and even had them pegged to face the Reds in the World Series–a prediction that seemed very likely just days ago.

If all holds steady, however, we’re in for another wild round of nail-biting games this evening. I can hardly wait!

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The Mike Fontenot Trade

By bullpenbrian - February 3, 2010 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

On February 2, 2005 the Cubs made a trade with Baltimore for Mike Fontenot and the pride of Naperville, Illinois, Jerry Hairston.

Fontenot was the Orioles first round draft pick in 2001 (19th overall) and Hairston a super utility player during his first seven seasons in Baltimore.

But does anyone remember who Chicago sent packing in return?

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Trading For Brian Roberts

By bullpenbrian - February 24, 2009 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

Now that Brian Roberts has signed a new 4-year $40 million deal with Baltimore you can forget about a trade to the Cubs, right?

Wrong.

Roberts said loyalty - instilled in him by his father – pushed him towards resigning with Baltimore before testing the free-agent market.

But that loyalty is sure to fade away with any hopes that he’ll play for a winner before retiring.

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Cubs’ Trash Is Baltimore’s Treasure

By bullpenbrian - February 2, 2009 - 9:00 pm Leave a comment.

Rich Hill is better off in Baltimore than he ever would have been in a Cubs uniform.

Sweet Lou has no patience for players who’ve lost confidence, something Hill has lacked since losing his pitch control last April, and that makes for a bad marriage between manager and starter.

Besides, Hill is a classic example of Yen vs. Yang, one night he tosses a three-hitter the next start he’s showering after 1/3 of an inning.

You want consistency out of your back-end starters, someone who takes the ball every fifth day, throws six innings – good or bad – and keeps the bullpen intact (Javier Vazquez). Hill simply isn’t that kind of pitcher yet.

In Hill’s case he’ll thrill you one minute and leave you screaming the next, and that sort of thing is bad timing in an impatient Cubs organization.

Had Hill, a player fresh out of minor league options, remained in Chicago it appears it wouldn’t have been long before his spot on the 25-man roster became a distraction during spring camp.

Fortunately, the Cubs are well enough off to forget about Hill’s inconsistencies and deal the guy to the O’s, a team so desperate for talent any risk looks worth taking – see Pie trade.

In return the Cubs get a player to be named later, which, all depends on how well Hill performs in Baltimore.

And above all else, trading Hill sends a clear message through the Cubs’ clubhouse: earn your place or you’re heading to Baltimore: a legitimate scare for any player!

MICHAEL WUERTZ TRADED TO OAKLAND

If six straight post season losses has done anything positive for the Cubs it’s made them take a harder look at each spot on the roster.

Similar to Hill, Wuertz is another fringe guy whose talents keep him fluctuating between Triple-A and Wrigley Field.

Wuertz’s 44 hits allowed in 44 innings pitched during 2008 simply doesn’t cut it on a team expected to make the World Series, but he looks like a lock in the A’s wily bullpen.

Kudos to Jim Hendry for staying aggressive and getting a couple of minor leaguers in return for Wuertz, a player who would not have broke spring camp with the big league club.

So what if the two prospects – OF Rich Robnett & INF Justin Sellers – never amount to anything, at least Hendry haggled for the possibility vs. keeping Wuertz an Iowa Cub for the remainder of his career.

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