Even though Spring Training games are less than a week away for the Washington Nationals, that doesn’t mean that the team is done bringing non-roster invitees to Viera, Florida. On Friday night, the organization announced via Twitter that they signed left-hander Rich Hill to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training:
It’s been a long career for the lefty who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut for Chicago on June 15, 2005. Hill would spend the first four seasons of his career with Chicago, going 18-17 with a 4.37 ERA in 64 games with 57 of those outings being starts.In 2009, Hill went from Chicago to the Baltimore Orioles. His transition to starting in the American League was not a great one as he went 3-3 with a 7.80 ERA in 14 games (13 starts).
For the last five seasons, Hill has been with four different organizations (Red Sox, Indians, Angels, and Yankees). Ironically, it was the Yankees who were the team Hill last pitched for as New York signed him after Matt Thornton was traded to the Nationals last July.
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Hill would appear in 14 games for the Yankees last season and had a 1.69 ERA. However, he only threw 5.1 innings, never faced more than four batters in any outing, and right-handed hitters only had six at-bats against him.
When you look at Hill’s arsenal, his average velocity has never been higher than 92 miles per hour, according to Fangraphs. Last season, his fastball was around 90 miles per hour on average, but his more popular pitch was the curveball, which he used nearly 53% of the time.
Washington already has two lefties in their major league bullpen with Thornton and Jerry Blevins. When you look at this Hill signing, it could be more of a move for AAA and a move for depth should Washington suffer an injury in their bullpen.
In 29 AAA appearances last season with Pawtucket (Red Sox) and Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees), Hill went 3-3 with 2.93 ERA and a 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings. In eight seasons at AAA, whether it’s as a starter or reliever, Hill has a 3.06 ERA.
If you take a further look at this signing, the Washington Nationals might have a lefty in Rich Hill that could provide organizational depth in the minors in case of injury. He is another lefty with big league experience and a minor league signing is never a bad idea when you consider it is a low risk, high reward move.