Hey, kinda looks like A.J. Burnett, right?
It’s game two of the Yanks-Orioles series, and the story from the Yankees standpoint is Sergio Mitre. Normally I’d do a run-through of his career to this point, but Mike took care of that. We’ll just have to sit back and see what he can do against the Orioles offense, which ranks 10th in the AL in OPS.
The Yanks will face Rich Hill. The former Michigan Wolverine went in the fourth round to the Cubs in 2002. A fastball-curveball lefty, Hill had always been a strikeout pitcher. Problem was, he was also a wild pitcher, issuing an extraordinary number of free passes in college and his first few years in the minors. He broke out in 2005, though, getting his walk rate down as he pitched at three different levels of the minors. He also had an unsuccessful stint in the majors that year, but it was only 23.2 innings.
He got another chance in 2006, and pitched decently. His strikeout rate fell down to less than a batter per inning, but his walk rate settled a bit, too, to a manageable 3.5. He was even better in 2007, throwing 195 innings to a 3.92 ERA, striking out 183 and walking just 63. All the sudden, Hill looked like he’d reach his potential.
Yet 2008 was not so kind. Hill struggled early with his control, walking at least three batters per game in his first four starts, only one of which lasted six innings. On May 2 he walked four batters while recording just two outs. Manager Lou Piniella yanked him from the game, and the next day he was optioned to AAA. There he had back issues, and then in June was shut down and sent to work on his issues. In July the team said that Hill’s problems were more mental than physical. In August he faced more back problems and was placed on the DL, missing the rest of the year.
Over the winter the Cubs sent Hill to the Orioles for a player to be named later. He’s had enormous problems this year, with his walk rate up over 5.5 per nine. He’s had a few decent starts, but for every one in which he went six innings, three runs or better, he’s had an under-six inning, more than six-run start. Other than his standout start against Seattle on June 1, there’s nothing at all spectacular about Hill’s past two seasons.
Oh, and that failed cup of coffee in 2005? Part of that was at the hands of the Yanks. The Yankees were up three runs in the sixth inning on June 18, 2005. The Cubs starter, Glendon Rusch, came out to start the sixth, but walked Jorge Posada and gave up a single to Bernie Williams. In came Hill, who started off strong by striking out Tino Martinez, probably on one of those filthy curveballs. But he walked Robinson Cano — ROBINSON CANO — to load the bases. Derek Jeter was due up next. Perhaps this has jogged your memory. If not…
I was at a family gathering that day. Once Hill — I had no idea who he was at the time — came out and they cut to a commercial break, I guaranteed my uncle and cousin that when they came back they’d have up a note about how Jeter had never hit a grand slam in his career. Sure enough, they did. Moments later, Jeter took Joe Borowski deep, ensuring that commentators would never bring up that subject ever again.
Looks like the game will start at 7:30.
And on the mound, the newly-minted number forty-five, Sergio Mitre.