Robert Michael Hinkle
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.
- School Kansas State University
Mike Hinkle pitched for three years at AAA but never made the majors.
Hinkle was picked by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 24th round of the 1987 amateur draft, one choice after Jeromy Burnitz. He made his pro debut with the Erie Cardinals that summer, going 5-4 with a save and a 2.34 ERA. He was 6th in the New York-Penn League in ERA, between Craig Lopez and Brett Robertson. He led the Erie staff in ERA, .47 ahead of future major leaguer Jeremy Hernandez. In 1988, Mike was with the St. Petersburg Cardinals (3-3, 2.13) and Savannah Cardinals (7-9, 2.89, 25 BB in 149 2/3 IP).
Moving up to the Arkansas Travelers in 1989, the Kansas State alumnus was 9-4 with a 4.10 ERA, walking only 25 in 131 2/3 innings. In game 7 of the Texas League finals, he teamed with Mike Perez on a shutout to give Arkansas the pennant. In 1990, the 25-year-old had a solid full season in AAA at 8-7, 3.29 for the Louisville Redbirds. No Redbird that year would pitch more than 13 games and never play in the majors - except for Hinkle (29 games, 18 starts). He was 7th in the 1990 American Association in ERA, between Dan Gakeler and Scott Anderson.
Hinkle battled injury in 1991, likely derailing any shot at MLB. He pitched 6 games for Louisville (1-2, 4.65) and one rehab contest for St. Petersburg (0-1, 3.60). He returned to Louisville in 1992 but had lost his touch, going 2-5 with a 6.39 ERA. Overall, he had gone 35-35 with a 3.58 ERA in 135 minor league games, walking only 146 in 616 2/3 innings. He had hit .177/.205/.203 and fielded .950.
Hinkle then took his arm to Italy. In 1993, he was 11-4 with a 2.67 ERA for Fortitudo Bologna, only issuing 11 walks in 131 2/3 innings. He was 0-2 in the semifinals against Nettuno, though, as Bologna was eliminated there. He finished as the Serie A1 leader in wins. No one had ever led the league with fewer wins since at least 1960 (Rolando Cretis and Rich Olsen had each led with 11). It wouldn't be until 2006 until a pitcher led with fewer (Victor Arias, Christian Mura and Roque Roman each won 9 that year).
In 1995, Mike moved to Bologna and went 6-1 with a 2.62 ERA and 5 walks in 55 innings. While he did not win as often as staff mates Gianni Ricci and Massimiliano Masin, he had a better ERA than them. He was 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA in the finals, fanning 19 in 17 innings. Nettuno's other hurlers were 0-3 in the finals (Ricci taking 2 defeats and Masin 1) as the club lost to Parma. Overall, he had a 21-8, 2.87 record in Italy.