Rich Hill Shows Up Clueless at HoHoKam

Matt Murton doubled twice and Henry Blanco homerred, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Colorado Rockies 8-6 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa. 

But the real story today was Rich Hill.

box score

After struggling for most of the Spring to find his '07 mojo, Rich Hill had (by far) his worst and most worrisome outing yet, failing to get out of the second inning and having no clue on the mound whatsoever.

Hill walked five of the first six and six of the first eight batters he faced, finally being relieved after retiring only one hitter in the 2nd. For the day, Hill threw 50 pitches,but only 19 for strikes. He also made an errant pick-off throw, and totally ignored the runners he did put on base, allowing four uncontested stolen bases (unfairly charged to Henry Blanco, who had no play) through outright neglect. .

After being relieved, Hill could be seen throwing in the Cubs bullpen beyond the RF fence, presumably to complete his expected 75-80 pitch outing by throwing an extra 25-30 in the pen.

As amazing as this sounds, there now must be speculation that Rich Hill could lose his spot in the rotation. With the other five starter candidates throwing the ball very well recently, Hill could find himself in Iowa to start the season if he doesn't turn things around in his next scheduled start on Tuesday. I have a feeling Uncle Lou is not real happy with Rich Hill right now. .

Down 3-0, the Cubs tied the game with a three-run second, as Matt Murton (near HR off right-centerfield fence) and Mark DeRosa slugged back-to-back doubles, and Henry Blanco followed with a two-run Home Run over the left-field fence to the base of the scoreboard. Blanco, who went 2-3 with a walk yesterday, had a 2-2 day today and is swinging the bat REALLY well right now..

Tim Lahey got an early long relief call today, and was not particulary effective, allowing two hits and a walk, including .a two-run homer to Ian Stewart in the 3rd. Henry Blanco threw out a potential base-stealer to help Lahey finish the 3rd. As it was, it took the rookie RHP 26 pitches to get through that inning. 

Kerry Wood's back was apparently healthy enough to allow him to throw an inning (the 4th), and although he did allow a run on two hits (a single and a double), he also got two strikeouts (one swinging and one called) and looked to be throwing with decent velocity, albeit not quite as effeciently as in his previous outings (21 pitches - 14 strikes in just one inning of work today)  

Neal Cotts worked two shutout innings (the 5th and the 6th), but was not particularly impressive. He threw 34 pitches in his two innings of work, walking two and allowing one hit. He benefitted from a CS (nice throw by Casey McGehee) and a timely 5-4-3 DP to get around the walks.  

Meanwhile, the Cubs scored a run in the third, manufactured by Ryan Theriot, The Riot walked to start the inning, advanced to second on a wild pick-off throw by Rockies starter Franklin Morales, before stealing 3rd (uncontested) and scoring on a wild pitch.

The Cubs scored two more in the 5th (lead-off line single to left by Geovany Soto, double into the left-field corner by Alfonso Soriano, sac fly to deep right by Derrek Lee, and line-drive RBI single by Aramis Ramirez), and then two more in the 6th (lead-off double into the left-center field alley by Murton, a 5-3 sac bunt by DeRosa, and then PH RBI single by Daryle Ward, single by Casey McGehee, and RBI single by Ryan Theriot).

After Matt Avery and Geoff Jones (both up from the minor league camp) tip-toed their way through the 7th, Michael Wuertz was brought in with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the 8th, and retired all four men he faced on two fly outs to Felix Pie in CF and two strikeouts. 

Kosuke Fukudome started in CF today (Murton played RF), and although he had no plays in CF, he did have one really bad day at the plate, striking out three times against left-handed pitchers (twice against Franklin Morales and once against Brian Fuentes), and looking absolutely lost in the process. Fuku's swing agianst two MLB-quality lefties made Jacque Jones look like Ted Williams.

On defense, Aramis Ramirez made an outstanding diving catch to his right in the 7th, Mike Fontenot made two excellent plays at SS, one where he threw out a runner at 1st from deep in the hole with a one-hop strike to D-Lee, and another as middle-man in a clutch 1-6-3 GIDP in the 8th, and Felix Pie made an outstanding running catch into the deepest part of CF with his back to the infield.

On the Cubs transaction front, RHPs Jose Ascanio and Sean Gallagher were optioned to Iowa, and NRI OFJosh Kroeger was sent to the minor league camp.

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Comments

Thanks as always Phil. Could you give us a quick review of Hill's options? Would the Cubs lose anything by having him make a few starts in AAA to start the season?

Submitted by WISCGRAD on Thu, 03/20/2008 - 7:02pm.

Thanks as always Phil.

Could you give us a quick review of Hill's options?

Would the Cubs lose anything by having him make a few starts in AAA to start the season?

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WISCGRAD: Rich Hill has one minor league option left and he does NOT need to clear Optional Assignment Waivers in order to be optioned out.

Also, if he were to spend a month (or more) on optional assignment to Iowa, Hill's chance of being a "Super Two" for salary arbitration purposes post-2008 goes from virtual certain lock to very unlikely.

What exactly does Teflon Larry Rothschild do for a living?

"What exactly does Teflon Larry Rothschild do for a living?"

Coats frying pans?

Here are my late-night, what-if worries for the next week...

What if Wood isn't healthy enough to stick at closer

What if Marmol continues to struggle

What if Soto continues to struggle

What if Fukudome continues to struggle

What if Hill continues to struggle

What if Pie doesn't take command of the CF job

ugh, that's a lot to worry about on a team that's supposed to be favored in the division

Stick to history, Trans. I don't like your work on the future...

hahahaha Steve!

what was hill throwing?

his usual "regular season" mix or heavy on something?

nothing THAT awful can be blamed on "working on a pitch" but just wondering.

One thing that I'd like to point out though is that control is a very fixable problem. He clearly doesn't have the feel or the release point right now. He's had it in the past, we've all seen it, and he's been effective. So if he has to work things out, whether at Iowa or in his first few starts that don't go so well, he'll in all likelihood figure it out soon. There are very few Rick Ankiels out there that simply forget how to pitch.

I'd be much more worried if his velocity was down, his curve had no break, and he was getting hammered all over the park. It's not like his stuff is gone, just his concentration and control.

Didn't Hill leave his last start with a blister? Could be it's still troubling him, or it somehow threw him off his game.

New article up on Hill: http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=2...

Doesn't sound like he is too worries or that his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy.

Also says the blister is not an issue.

I [heart] AZ Phil.

on the score today steve stone stated and i agree that the
8th hole is the kiss of death for a rookie ( pie) stone
stated that is the one trap he hopes pinella does not fall for.

the 8 hole is a bit of a punishment for anyone looking to do anything but force a guy to wait for his pitch because he sure as hell wont see much worth hitting in quantity with the pitcher batting next.

i dont know if pie has that ability, but does soto deserve to be there as his most likely replacement? derosa?

Hill needs to read his book again...seems like he's thinking too much out there once again. Was his velocity back today? Crunch noticed in his last outing, he was down a couple miles per hour on his stuff, of course that could always be the gun.

AZ, what is your general feeling about Hill this Spring Training? I'm not much of a pitching maven, especially as it pertains to the desert, but does the desert flatten out curves as much as people say it does? He's got a curve ball that is better than most of I've ever seen, but obviously needs a good change to accompany his rather ok fastball. Has he acquired that yet?

Thanks, and sorry I missed you when I visited. I wasn't looking for you though, and you weren't looking for me. Still, sorry I missed you. We may have chatted though, if you hang around the beer stalls.

I think this was made up by a Detroit sportswriter but it speculates that the Tigers are interested in Wuertz (for Thames or Inge, Neither who can play a decent CF)

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20...

Hands Off! our new closer, Cubster.

Beat me to a speculative post on the same topic there, Cubster.  Detroit has to be desperate for quality relief pitching, but I'm not sure where the match is with the Cubs...

Hahha, I was watching the recap of the game yesterday and the press talking to Lou afterwards. He said he's settled on the bullpen unless there's "an injury or 'Cubby occurrence' before Monday...{laughter}"

Uncle Lou knows how this team works already.

Can't say enough about the AZP recaps from Mesa/Peoria/Phoenix/whathaveyou for spring training. It's always a treat and greatly appreciated. Kudos again, Phil.

There's nothing wrong with Rich Hill's velocity. He's throwing as hard as he usually does and hitters aren't necessarily getting good swings against him (except when he gives up and throws a BP fastball to try and get the ball over the plate).

And he's throwing the same curve that worked for him last Spring Training. Naturally the break isn't as sharp as it will be in Chicago next month, but he's throwing his curve and it is breaking. It's just not breaking into the strike zone.

The main difference between this Spring and last Spring is that Hill didn't walk anybody last Spring, and this Spring he's walking EVERYBODY. He just can't throw strikes. He's not dropping his curve in for strikes, and he's not even able to consistently throw a BP fastball over the plate on a 3-0 pitch.

I suppose it could be related to his blister problem, but he had a blister here last year, too, and it didn't make him wild.

Personally, I suspect he has some kind of growing mindfreak mental block about being unable to throw strikes combined with a subtle mechanical-release point problem that either hasn't been diagnosed or hasn't been corrected (yet), and (despite what he might say to the media) his confidence is shaken.  

But I don;t see how he can be left in the rotation the way he's throwing right now, especially when there are five or six other starter options available. If Hill doesn't get it together by his next start next Tuesday, the Cubs really won't have any other choice but to leave him in Mesa to work on his problem (whatever it is), even if they have to use the blister as an excuse to put him on the DL to cover his mindfreak.

Rich Hill had this same problem with lack of control back when he was in "A" ball, and Cubs minor league pitching coordinator Alan Dunn (now a coach with the Orioles) worked with Hill to correct his mechanical problems and mental approach, and got him on track to become a major league pitcher. He always had the stuff to become an MLB pitcher. but he didn't always have the repeatable mechanics and the confidence needed to make it happen. 

AZ Phil:
"But I don;t see how he can be left in the rotation the way he's throwing right now, especially when there are five or six other starter options available. If Hill doesn't get it together by his next start next Tuesday, the Cubs really won't have any other choice but to leave him in Mesa to work on his problem (whatever it is), even if they have to use the blister as an excuse to put him on the DL to cover his mindfreak."

WOW!! That is amazing. I really am not that worried he is going to turn into Ankiel or anything, but who would have thought Hill might be left off the 25 man roster going into ST and it not be because of injury. This will definitely be a blow, but if Marshall/Lieber/Demp, etc. can continue to pitch close to what they have in ST, we will e OK until Hill finds his groove. I have confidence we can find a substitute starter for a month to cover Hill, but beyond that I will start to worry some.

And on a side note, it is great news to see Wood back in there yesterday. Let's hope he comes out fine today and can go back-to-back next times out.

I am a huge TheRIOT fan, which I know puts me in the minority around here, but was intrigued by something I saw recently about team being interested in the Rockies' Clint Barmes. The Rockies contend he's not available right now but is that something our Cubbies would jump into if he became available? He battled an ankle or achilles or something last year but was a complete stud at the plate as a rookie. Thoughts?

And on a side note, it is great news to see Wood back in there yesterday.
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I'll hope that for the next prank they play on someone (Tim Buss, strength coach...smashing the crap out of his old car), KW lays off the sledgehammer which I'll speculate lead to a stiff back for a day. No chopping Wood pranks either.

Henry Blanco, your table is waiting.

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