Rich Hill (pitcher)

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Rich Hill
Rich Hill on May 7, 2016.jpg
Hill pitching for the Oakland Athletics in 2016
Los Angeles Dodgers – No. 44
Pitcher
Born: (1980-03-11) March 11, 1980 (age 37)
Milton, Massachusetts
Bats: Left Throws: Left
MLB debut
June 15, 2005, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
(through 2016 season)
Win–loss record 38–28
Earned run average 4.10
Strikeouts 616
Teams

Richard Joseph Hill (born March 11, 1980) is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB). He has previously played for the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Oakland Athletics. Hill made his MLB debut in 2005.

Early life[edit]

Hill was born and raised in Milton, Massachusetts, and played for Milton High School's Varsity baseball team when he was a freshman. He is one of four to do that in the school's history.[1] He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft;[2] he considered it a great honor but conceded that he wasn't ready to play professional baseball so he decided to play college baseball for the Michigan Wolverines.[3] As a freshman, he pitched in 13 games with five starts and a high 9.23 Earned run average (ERA)[4] but he became a full-time member of the rotation as a sophomore and was 3–5 with a 3.84 ERA in 15 games, including one complete game shutout.[4] He was drafted again, in the seventh round of the 2001 MLB Draft by the Anaheim Angels but decided to return to school for his junior season, claiming he was unhappy with the money offered by the Angels.[5] Hill also pitched for the Chatham A's in the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2000 and 2001, working 56 13 innings and striking out 76.[6] In his junior season at Michigan in 2002, he was 3–7 with a 3.55 ERA in 15 games, including eight complete games and two shutouts. He struck out 104 while walking only 38.[4]

Professional career[edit]

Chicago Cubs[edit]

2002–2004[edit]

Hill was drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs and signed on July 10, 2002.[7] He had been rated as having one of the best curveballs in the draft but mechanical and control issues kept him out of the early rounds.[8] He began his professional career with the Boise Hawks of the Northwest League, where he was 0–2 with a 8.36 ERA in six games.[9] In 2003 with Boise he was 1–6 with a 4.35 ERA in 14 starts[9] and led the Northwest League in strikeouts with 99.[10] He was promoted to the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League, where he was 0–1 with a 2.76 ERA in 15 games (4 starts).[9]

In 2004, he was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League. He was 7–6 with a 4.03 ERA in 28 games (19 starts) and 136 strikeouts.[9] He was also selected by Baseball America as having the best curveball in the Cubs organization.[10]

2005 season[edit]

Hill began the 2005 season with the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League. He made 10 starts for them, with a 4–3 record and 3.28 ERA while leading the league in strikeouts with 90.[9] He earned a May promotion to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League.[11] In 11 games for Iowa, he was 6–1 with a 3.60 ERA and 92 strikeouts.[9] He earned Milb.com distinctions as breakthrough performer of the year.[12]

Hill made his major league debut on June 15, 2005 against the Florida Marlins. He pitched one inning of relief, giving up two runs on three hits, and did not factor into the decision. He struck out Carlos Delgado for his first major league strikeout.[13]

Hill's first start was on July 25, 2005, subbing for the oft-injured Kerry Wood against the San Francisco Giants. Once again he gave up two earned runs, but lasted five innings. The game was memorable due to Hill tripping over third-base on his way to the plate after a Todd Walker drive down the right-field line. With just one out and the Cubs down by one, Walker was forced to stop at first base, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. (who was behind Hill) at second. Hill did not score, and returned to third base unhurt. He did not factor into the decision.[14] He finished the season with an 0–2 record in 10 games (23 23 innings) while making four starts. His ERA was 9.13 and he struck out 21 while walking 17.[7]

2006 season[edit]

Hill pitching for the Chicago Cubs in 2006

In 2006, he started the season in Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs, but was called up on May 4 for a start against the Arizona Diamondbacks.[15] He gained attention in Chicago later in the month during the cross-town classic with the Chicago White Sox. On May 20, Hill lost to the White Sox 7–0, and was the starter in the game that saw A. J. Pierzynski run over Cubs catcher Michael Barrett at the plate in a huge collision. Hill was sent back to Triple-A Iowa the next day.[16] He made 15 starts for Iowa and was 7–1 with a 1.98 ERA and 135 strikeouts.[9] He was selected to the mid-season Pacific Coast League all-star game, where he was the top star, and he was later selected as a post-season all-star and a Baseball America Triple-A All-Star.[12]

Hill returned to the majors on July 27 with a start against the St. Louis Cardinals. He lasted only 313 innings, giving up four runs on six hits – walking three.[17] On August 1, he defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks for his first major league victory,[18] and on August 6, he got his second win and his first win streak.[19] On September 6, Hill fanned a career high 11 batters in a Cubs victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.[20] Hill's first complete game and shutout came versus the Cincinnati Reds in a game in which he fanned 10 and allowed just two hits, on September 16.[21] Hill's two complete games were the only CG's by the Cubs' pitching staff in the 2006 season, and he was one of the solid contributors in the rotation after being called back up, posting a 6–3 record with a 2.93 ERA.[7]

2007 season[edit]

Hill joined the starting rotation of the Cubs after spring training, and was the #4 starter in the rotation behind Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, and Jason Marquis.[22] He pitched against the Milwaukee Brewers for his first start of the 2007 season, throwing a perfect game through the first five innings, and finishing with allowing just one hit, and one run over 7 innings pitched.[23] He continued to excel during April, leading some to speculate that he was taking over as the ace in the Cubs rotation while he assembled a streak of 18 consecutive innings without an earned run.[24]

Cubs catcher Michael Barrett described Rich's signature pitch as follows.

Hill suffered a setback in Philadelphia, where he took his second loss of the season giving up five runs and left before getting any outs in the sixth inning.[26] His next start in New York City produced similar results posting his third loss, and Lou Piniella pointed to control problems.[27] The troubles continued in San Diego during his next start, where he picked up his third consecutive loss 5–1 to the Padres and gave up four home runs. Piniella extended his analysis of Hill's throwing: "Not the same pitcher that left spring training. He was missing his spots. Some of those pitches that were hit out of the park, the catcher was sitting on the outside corner and the balls are inside, but they might have been outside. He's got to keep working. He's not throwing as hard, either, for whatever reason."[28]

Hill rebounded in his next three starts, going twenty-one innings and giving up only two earned runs.[29] Hill matched his career-high with eleven strikeouts against the Braves on June 7, 2007.[30] For the season he was 11–8 with a 3.92 ERA in 32 starts with 183 strikeouts.[7]

Hill started game 3 of the 2007 National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks but Chris Young homered off his first pitch of the game and he only lasted three innings, allowing six hits and three runs as the Cubs were swept in the series.[31][32]

2008 season[edit]

Hill reworked his delivery during spring training in 2008 after some initial issues with his command[33] but retained his spot in the rotation as the season began.[34] He struggled to start the season, making five starts, and was 1–0 with a 4.12 ERA, striking out 15 but also walking 18.[35] In his final start, against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 2, he walked four of the first six batters he faced and was removed in the first inning. On May 3, he was optioned back to Triple-A Iowa in order to get his control figured out.[36]

Hill continued to have control problems in the minors and was shut down with a stiff back on May 17.[37] He suffered from various muscle strains the rest of the season,[10] making only 13 starts in the minors for Iowa, Daytona and the Arizona League Cubs, and was 4–7 with a 5.85 ERA and 44 walks.[9] He played for the Tigres de Aragua of the Venezuelan Winter League after the season and was 1–2 with a 6.86 ERA in nine games (six starts), walking 23 while striking out 16.[9]

Baltimore Orioles[edit]

Hill during his tenure with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009

On February 2, 2009, Hill was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later.[38]

Hill suffered an elbow injury in spring training and began the season on the disabled list, he did not make his Orioles debut until May 16, 2009[39] going 523 with six strikeouts and was the winning pitcher.[40] He started 13 games for Baltimore with a 3-3 record, a 7.80 ERA, and 46 strikeouts in 57 23 innings.[7] On July 29, it was revealed that Hill had a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and had been pitching through it all season. He was placed on the disabled list for the rest of the season[41] and underwent surgery to repair the labrum on August 8.[42] Hill was outrighted off the 40 man roster on October 30[43] and elected free agency on November 3.[44]

St. Louis Cardinals[edit]

On January 26, 2010, Hill signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals with an invite to Spring training. General Manager John Mozeliak said that Hill was recovered from his surgery and was expected to compete for the fifth starter job.[45] Hill struggled in spring training games, which was frustrating for him[46] and he was beaten out by Jaime García in the battle for the fifth starter spot.[47]

Hill was assigned to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds[48] where he had a 4–3 record in 23 games (46 IP) plus a 4.30 ERA and 47 strikeouts. He only made four starts and was primarily used out of the bullpen for the first time in his career.[9] In June of that year, he opted out of his contract with St. Louis.[7]

Boston Red Sox[edit]

On June 30, 2010, Hill signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox. He was assigned the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.[49] He appeared in 19 games for them, six of which were starts, and had a 3–1 record and 3.74 ERA.[9] Hill was called up to the Red Sox major league roster on September 13[50] and made his debut with them as a reliever against the Seattle Mariners the following day, retiring the one batter he faced and recording the win.[51] He appeared in six games the rest of the season, working four innings out of the bullpen, striking out three, walking one and allowing no runs to score.[52] At the end of the season, he was outrighted to the minors[12] and became a free agent on November 6.[7]

The Red Sox re-signed Hill to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training on December 16, 2010.[12] Hill transitioned to a "sidewinder" pitcher during spring training and out performed other relievers trying to make the roster but was optioned back to Pawtucket to start the season.[53] He appeared in 10 games in the minors, pitching 16 innings and had a 1.12 ERA with one save.[9] His contract was purchased by the Red Sox and he was called up to the majors on May 5.[54]

On May 29, Hill injured his left throwing elbow and on June 9, he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn Ulnar collateral ligament.[10][55] In nine games with the Red Sox in 2011, Hill pitched eight innings, striking out 12, walking three and giving up no earned runs.[7] On December 12, Hill was non-tendered, and became a free agent.[56]

On December 30, 2011, the Red Sox again re-signed Hill to a minor-league contract that included an invitation to spring training.[57] His recovery progressed ahead of schedule and he made his first rehab appearance in the minors, with the Greenville Drive, on April 7, 2012.[58] He made 16 minor league rehab appearances, across five different levels, and had a 2.20 ERA with 27 strikeouts and five walks.[9] He rejoined the Red Sox roster on April 27.[59] He experienced renewed soreness in his elbow on June 10 and was placed back on the disabled list.[60] He was diagnosed with a strained flexor muscle[61] and he didn't rejoin the roster until September 1.[62] Overall, he appeared in 25 games for the Red Sox in 2012, with a 1.83 ERA in 19 23 innings and 21 strikeouts.[63] He was non-tendered on November 30 and became a free agent.[64]

Cleveland Indians[edit]

On February 7, 2013, Hill signed a minor league deal with an invite to big league spring training with the Cleveland Indians.[12] Terry Francona, who had been Hill's manager during his time with the Red Sox, was now the manager in Cleveland and was impressed with his stuff and his comeback from the injury. On March 11, the Indians purchased his contract and added him to the 40-man roster.[65] He made the opening day roster as a relief pitcher.[66]

Over the 2013 MLB season, he appeared in a career high 63 games, working 38 23 innings and was 1–2 with a 6.28 ERA. He also struck out 51 batters while walking 29.[7] His average inherited runners stranded rate was 11.88. He was among the leaders in inherited runners stranded with 51.[67] He became a free agent at the conclusion of the season.[68]

Boston / LA Angels / New York Yankees[edit]

Hill signed a minor league deal to return to the Red Sox on February 9, 2014. The deal included an invitation to spring training.[69] Hill reported late to camp after a family emergency, which caused him to fall behind the other relievers in camp and he did not make the opening day roster.[70] He was assigned to Pawtucket[12] where he had a 3.23 ERA in 25 games.[9]

Hill was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for cash considerations on July 1, 2014.[71] He appeared in just two games for the Angels, both parts of a doubleheader that was played that day. In the first game, he allowed a single and walked two batters[72] and in the second game, he walked the one batter he faced and threw a wild pitch.[73] He was designated for assignment a few days later, without appearing in another game, and then released on July 11.[74]

On July 17, 2014, Hill signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees and was assigned to the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.[75] With the RailRiders, he appeared in four games and did not allow a run.[9] The Yankees promoted him to the major leagues on August 5.[76] He was designated for assignment on August 29,[77] but was re-added to the roster on September 2.[12] Overall, he appeared in 14 games, working a total of 5 13 innings with a 1.69 ERA.[7]

Washington / Long Island[edit]

On February 27, 2015, Hill signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals that included an invitation to spring training.[78] Even though he was signed late after camp had started, manager Matt Williams said they intended to have him compete for a bullpen spot on the team.[79] Despite pitching well in exhibition games, Hill did not make the opening day roster and was reassigned to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs on April 4. He expressed his disappointment with the decision.[80] He appeared in 25 games for the Chiefs, working 21 23 innings for a 2–2 record and 2.91 ERA.[9] He was released by the Nationals on June 24 after exercising the opt out clause in his contract.[12]

On July 28, 2015, after not receiving any other offers, Hill signed with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.[81] He made two starts with the Ducks. On August 9, he struck out 14 batters in six innings against the Camden Riversharks, tying the franchise record.[82] He pitched 11 innings for the Ducks over those two starts, with 21 strikeouts, only three walks and two hits and no runs allowed.[9]

Return to Boston[edit]

Rich Hill on May 21, 2012

Hill signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox on August 14, 2015.[83] He made five starts for Pawtucket and was 3–2 with a 2.78 ERA.[9] Hill was brought up from Pawtucket on September 8[84] and made his first major league start since 2009 on September 13, giving up one hit over seven innings, while striking out 10 batters and walking one.[85] On September 25, Hill pitched a complete game two-hitter while striking out 10 batters for the third consecutive start.[86] In four starts for the Red Sox, he was 2–1 with a 1.55 ERA and 36 strikeouts.[87]

Oakland Athletics[edit]

On November 17, 2015, Hill agreed to a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics for $6 million.[88] After spring training, Hill was named the fifth starter,[89] but ended up starting on Opening Day after planned starter Sonny Gray was hospitalized with a case of food poisoning.[90] With the Athletics, Hill had a 2.25 ERA and a record of 9-3 in 14 starts.[91]

Los Angeles Dodgers[edit]

On August 1, 2016, the Athletics traded Hill and Josh Reddick to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Grant Holmes, Jharel Cotton, and Frankie Montas.[92] He made his debut as a Dodger on August 24, pitching six scoreless innings and earning the win in a 1-0 game against the San Francisco Giants.[93] On September 10 against the Miami Marlins, Hill pitched seven perfect innings before he was replaced by a relief pitcher. It was the first time in major league history that a manager had pulled a pitcher that late in the game with a perfect game in reach.[94][95] In six starts for the Dodgers, he was 3–2 with a 1.83 ERA.[96]

Hill started the second game of the 2016 National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, pitching well for three innings before allowing a three-run home run to Jose Lobaton in the fourth inning of what became a 5–2 loss.[97] He came back to pitch on short rest in the deciding game five, pitching 2 23 innings in a game the Dodgers eventually won 4–3.[98] In game three of the 2016 National League Championship Series, Hill allowed only two hits in six innings in the Dodgers victory over the Chicago Cubs.[99] However, the Cubs came back and beat the Dodgers in six games to win the series.[100]

On December 5, 2016, the Dodgers re-signed Hill to a three-year, $48 million, contract.[101]

Personal life[edit]

Hill is the only member of the South Shore Baseball Club of Hingham, Massachusetts, to play for a major league team.[102]

Hill married Caitlin McClellan, a nurse, on November 11, 2007. On October 7, 2011, Caitlin and Rich welcomed their first child, a son, Brice. Caitlin and Rich welcomed a second son, named Brooks Stephen Hill, on December 26, 2013. On February 24, 2014, Brooks died of what was described as "multiple health issues".[103]

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