Rich Hill may have found a new niche in baseball.
The 30-year-old burst on the scene as a 27-year-old with a wicked curveball in posting a 3.92 ERA over 32 starts comprised of 195 innings. With a 8.4 K/9 ratio against 2.9 BB/9, he was supposed to be a big part of Chicago's rotation for years to come.
Except his control abandoned him completely and he has led a nomadic career since, splitting 2008 with the major- and minor-league clubs of the Cubs. In 2009, he moved onto the Orioles, but still showed zero command en route to a 7.80 ERA over 17 starts and one relief appearance.
Hill opened 2010 in the Cardinals' farm system before heading to Triple-A Pawtucket and receiving a promotion September 14 and has since logged one inning of two appearances out of the bullpen, allowing no baserunners and whiffing one.
It's not often one inning is enough to judge whether Hill is ready to compete in the majors again, but in Hill's case, it just might be enough. After posting a 4.30 ERA in four starts and 19 relief appearances for Pawtucket, Hill is ready to be a major-leaguer again. He'll do so not quite having reclaimed his control, but still has that curveball which could play better in the bullpen with his deficiencies hidden.
"Out of the bullpen it’s a different animal," Hill said of his new role to the Boston Globe . "I can drop down a bit and throw that curveball and I can throw an over-the-top fastball. It’s different but I’m learning how to pitch out of the pen and I’ve enjoyed it."
Hill is a free agent after the year but hopes to return to the Red Sox organization as a native son, born in Boston. He could fashion a career as a situational left-hander, something the Red Sox have lacked since the departures of Mike Myers and Javier Lopez.
-- Evan Brunell
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