Era is probably going to end before it begins here in St. Louis.
Since Hill joined the team, I've been rooting for him to win the vacant fifth spot in the Cardinals' rotation. I've long admired his stuff, and the spectre of Kyle McClellan taking the mound every fifth day is just too terrifying for me to consider and still sleep well at night. So I've hoped against my logical self to see Hill turn his control issues around and regain some of the magic he showed back in the early days of his MLB career.
Sadly, after watching Rich Hill this spring, I just don't think it's going to happen.
The bugaboo is the same one which derailed Hill's career in the first place and turned him into a bargain-basement former star: a stunning lack of control. In Thursday's game, Hill issued five free passes in just three innings of work, as well as a towering home run to Chipper Jones
. He threw almost 80 pitches to get through those three frames.
The real problem is that Hill's delivery, from what little I've been able to see of him, is a complete mess. It was clear in last Saturday's contest, when he threw in relief of Chris Carpenter. Watching the game over on the DVR, replaying each pitch and occasionally even watching frame by frame, it was painfully obvious just how little consistency there is in Hill's motion from pitch to pitch. On some deliveries, his throwing hand reaches nearly to the ground behind him; on others, it's nowhere near that low. He never seems to get his body rotated through and is always throwing against himself. The only pitch he seems able to get over consistently for strikes is his curve, because he can just slow everything down and flip the ball up there. His fastball is constantly up and out of the zone, and usually well into the left batter's box.
I had hoped Dave Duncan would be able to work his special brand of mid-career rehab magic on Hill and turn him around, but the results simply aren't there. Hill has looked much the same pitcher we saw in 2008, when he walked over eight men per nine innings for the Cubs, and 2009, when he walked over six per nine for the Baltimore Orioles.
I suppose I'll keep hoping for some sort of miraculous turnaround, but I just don't really see how a pitcher who seems to have absolutely no capacity to throw a fastball strike is going to have any chance of getting big league hitters out. Maybe we'll get to see Hill sometime around midseason. Or maybe not. I honestly don't know at this point how much hope there is for him to ever get his mojo back.
Time to check and see how much room is left on the Jaime Garcia for fifth starter bandwagon is left. I'm afraid it's going to be crowded, though. Sigh. I'm going to get stuck sitting next to someone who needs a shower, I just know it.
It's looking more and more as if the