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.
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.