Note: This page links to major league pitcher Rich Hill. For the college coach, click here.
Richard Joseph Hill
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 5", Weight 205 lb.
- School University of Michigan
- High School Milton (MA) High School
- Debut June 15, 2005
Hill was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 4th round of the 2002 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Scott May and made his pro debut that summer. In 351 minor league innings pitched from 2002 to 2005, he struck out 491, or 12.6 per 9 IP. After one outing with the Single A Peoria Chiefs in 2005, he made the jump to the AA West Tenn Diamond Jaxx. By June 15th, he was making his major league debut with the Cubs. He went 0-2, 9.13 in 10 games for the Cubs that first season, also spending time in AAA with the Iowa Cubs. In 2006, he went 6-7, 4.17 in 17 games for the Cubs. He had his first complete game and shutout that season. He then had his best major league season in 2007 when he was 11-8, 3.92 in 32 starts, logging 195 innings and striking out 183 batters. He started Game 3 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 6th, but gave up3 runs in as many innings and was a 5-1 loser as the Cubs were swept in three games.
Rich seemed on the brink of a great major league career at that point, but injuries intervened. In 2008, he made only 5 starts, going 1-0, before being shelved. The following spring, the Cubs sold his contract to the Baltimore Orioles where he was 3-3, 7.80 in 14 games. He moved to the Boston Red Sox as a free agent after the season and in 2010 and 2011 pitched a total of 15 games, all in relief, for the BoSox, not giving up a run in 12 innings. He saw more extended playing time in 2012, pitching 25 times out of the bullpen with a record of 1-0 and a solid 1.83 ERA and over a strikeout per inning. However, in spite of those solid reasons for his hometown team, he never received a real chance to capture a significant a role on the pitching staff, and he decided to move over to the Cleveland Indians in 2013. He spent a full season on the majors for the first time since 2008 that season, but the results were poor, as his ERA was 6.28 in 63 relief outings as an extreme LOOGY (he only logged 38 2/3 innings, with a record of 1-2 and no saves). He returned to Boston as a free agent after the season.
Hill was felled by tragedy as spring training was getting under way in 2014. He and his wife Caitlin gave birth to a son who was afflicted with a rare brain disorder and malfunctioning kidneys. Young Brooks died on February 24th after his parents had to make wrenching decisions about the care he was to receive. As Hill explained: "There is no right way to grieve. Everyone grieves differently, and nobody does it well. No one is good at grieving.". He then joined the Red Sox for spring training in Fort Myers, FL in early March with his wife Caitlin and two-year-old son Brice, expressing hope that the normalcy of baseball would help them to overcome the grief. He was assigned to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox where he went 3-3, 3.46 in 25 games, prompting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to purchase his contract from Boston on July 1st. However, he made only two appearances with the Angels, with an infinite ERA, and opted for free agency when the team tried to send him back to AAA. He signed with the New York Yankees a couple of weeks later and got to pitch 14 times out of their bullpen late in the year, putting up a solid 1.69 ERA. He then moved to the Washington Nationals before the 2015 season. He was assigned to the minor leagues, with the AAA Syracuse Chiefs, and went 2-2, 2.91 in 25 games as a reliever. Frustrated with the way his career was going, he decided he wanted to be a starter once again, and since the Nationals would not give him the chance, he asked and received his release on June 24th and signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League to do so. In 2 starts, he gave up only 2 hits and no runs in 11 innings and was inked by the Red Sox for the third time on August 14th, with the understanding he would get a chance to start. He went to Pawtucket where he was 3-2, 2.78 in 5 starts and was called up to Boston when rosters expanded in September.
Hill became a Cinderella story for the Red Sox in 2015 when he suddenly pitched as a top-rank starter in his late-season audition. In his debut game on September 13th, he held the Indians to 1 hit in 7 innings, walking 1 batter and striking out 10, but had a no-decision. In his second start, he defeated the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3, on September 20th, this time striking out 10 while walking none in 7 innings, and he followed that with a complete game two-hit shutout over the Orioles, 7-0, on September 25 in which he once again owned the strike zone, with 10 Ks and a walk. He allowed a lead-off single and then nothing until the 9th, when Dariel Alvarez hit an infield single; Chris Davis hit a ball that seemed destined to end in the seat, but RF Mookie Betts made a wonderful game-ending leaping catch at the wall to end the game. After three starts, the re-born Hill was 2-0, 1.17, with a 30-2 K/W ratio! He was achieving that success with only two pitches, a 92 mph fastball and an exceptional sweeping curveball that was continually freezing opposing batters. He finished with a record of 2-1, 1.55 in 4 starts. On November 20th, he signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics.
Hill was the opening day starter for the A's on April 4, 2016, although it wasn't planned. Scheduled starter Sonny Gray was a last-minute scratch because of a bout of food poisoning. He gave up 4 runs in 2 2/3 innings and was charged with a 4-3 loss against the Chicago White Sox as all seven runs in the game scored in the 3rd inning. After going 3-2, 2.42 in 5 April starts, he was the American League Pitcher of the Month in May. That month, he went 5-1, 2.13 in 6 starts, allowing only 24 hits in 38 innings and striking out 37 batters. However, he went on the disabled list in mid-June because of a groin issue, having not pitched since the end of May, and only returned on July 2nd. By then, there were a number of trade rumors swirling around his name, given there was little point in the Athletics hanging on to a 36-year-old pitcher who had hit peak value when the season was already lost. he went back on the DL on July 30th, because of a persistent blister on his throwing hand, then on August 1st, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with OF Josh Reddick in return for three prospects - Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas. He was 9-3, 2.25 in 14 starts at that point. He did not make his first start for L.A. until August 24th, but it was an important one, with the Dodgers facing their main rivals, the San Francisco Giants after having recently built a two-game lead in the NL West. He was up to the task, pitching six scoreless innings as the Dodgers won, 1-0. On September 10th, he started a game against the Miami Marlins by retiring the first 21 batters. He needed only 89 pitchers to complete those seven innings, while striking out 9, but manager Dave Roberts made the fateful decision to pull him out, wary of his previous blister problems. Reliever Joe Blanton gave up a two-out single in the 8th, but Hill was still credited with his team's 5-0 win. For his part, Hill stated that he was fine when he left the game and could have continued pitching. he went 3-2, 1.83 in 6 starts for Los Angeles, giving him a combined record of 12-5. 2.12 with 129 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings, against only 77 hits. He was 0-1, 6.43 in two starts against the Washington Nationals in the Division Series, but in the NLCS, he had a magnificent performance against the Cubs in Game 3, pitching 6 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball to receive credit for a 6-0 win. He was schedule to start Game 7 of the series, but the Cubs eliminated the Dodgers in six games. He was free agent again after the season and was in his demand given the paucity of starting pitching on the market. On December 5th, he re-signed with the Dodgers for three years at $48 million, finally hitting pay-dirt at the age of 36.
Rich won his first start of 2017, 3-1 over the San Diego Padres on April 5th, but two days later, the Dodgers placed him on the disabled list with a blister problem. He was reactivated on April 16th, but had to leave that day's start after three innings when he re-aggravated the problem. It took him a whole to get into a groove, but he was outstanding in July, when he was named the National League Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0, 1.45 in 5 starts, with 40 strikeouts in 31 innings. On August 23rd, he came tantalizingly close to making history, as he carried a perfect game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park into the 9th inning. The game was still scoreless at that point, however, and he had benefited from a video replay, as Josh Bell had originally been ruled safe on an infield hit in the 3rd, before the call was reversed upon review. Jordy Mercer led of the 9th with a hard smash to third base that Logan Forsythe failed to corral, and he was charged with an error, ending the perfect game bid. Hill still kept the potential no-hitter going, though, as he retired the next three batters. The Dodgers failed to score again in the top of the 10th, and having needed just 91 pitches thus far, Hill was sent back for the 10th, but Josh Harrison lined a pitch that barely reached the stands for a walk-off homer, handing Hill a 1-0 loss for his tremendous effort. He was the first pitcher ever to lose a no-hitter on a walk-off home run. He was also the first pitcher to take a no-hitter into extra innings since Pedro Martinez had done so with a perfect game for the 1995 Montréal Expos. He finished the season at 12-8, 3.32 in 25 starts, logging 135 2/3 innings. In the postseason, he had a no-decision in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving up 2 runs in 4 innings, then gave up just 1 run in 5 innings against the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS for another no-decision. The Dodgers won both games, on their way to their first appearance in the World Series since 1988. He started Game 2 again, on October 25th, and allowed 1 run to the Houston Astros on 3 hits in 4 innings, but manager Roberts decided to take him out of the game early so he would not have to face the Astros' hitters a third time. That decision proved controversial, as the Dodgers went on to lose the game, 7-6, in 11 innings, starting a pattern of overusing their bullpen that would prove costly. His other start, in Game 6, was similar, in that he again allowed just one run in 4 2/3 innings before being removed, although this time the Dodgers went on to win the game, 3-1, before losing the decisive Game 7 the next day. In neither of his World Series starts did Hill get even close to the psychological limit of 100 pitches, so it was purely a tactical decision to go to the bullpen early in both games.
2018 saw a return of the blister problem for Hill, as he allowed 7 runs in 5 innings in his third start, on April 14th against the Diamondbacks, then went on the disabled list. He returned in early May, but his first two starts were mediocre, then on May 19th, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals, he made only two pitches before the blister forced him to leave the game, forcing the Dodgers to use seven relievers to complete the game. His lack of contribution, coupled with the absence through injury of other key members of the previous year's team, such as ace Clayton Kershaw, 3B Justin Turner and SS Corey Seager meant the Dodgers were badly underperforming, barely keeping ahead of the NL West cellar. However, they managed to right the ship, and he ended up with another solid year, going 11-5, 3.6 in 25 games and 132 2/3 innings - very similar numbers to those he had put up in 2017. The Dodgers once again made a deep run in the postseason, reaching the World Series for the second straight year, where they weer defeated by Hill's former team, the Red Sox. He made one start in each of the three series the Dodgers played, in addition to a brief relief outing against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. He did not have a decision, giving up 4 runs in 16 2/3 innings over the 4 games, with 17 strikeouts and 12 walks.
He missed the first few weeks of the 2019 season, making his first start on April 28th. He only made 13 starts that year, although he pitched well when he was able to take the mound, going 4-1, 2.45, with 72 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings. He also started Game 4 of the Division Series against the Washington Nationals but only lasted 2 2/3 innings and was not involved in the decision. He became a free agent after the season, but he had to undergo elbow surgery in November, with the consequence that he would be unavailable to pitch at least for the first half of the 2020 season. Around the same time, on December 20th, it was reported that he and his wife Caitlin were arrested for disorderly conduct at a New England Patriots game in Foxboro, MA. His wife apparently tried to enter the stadium with an oversized bag, and when turned away, refused to leave the area, leading to an attempt to have her arrested. Hill then intervened and was also charged. On December 31st, he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins worth $3 million but with the potential to earn him a lot more if he managed to reach certain performance bonuses, such as 75 innings or 15 starts. He made 8 starts for Minnesota during the pandemic-shortened season, going 2-2, 3.03.
He joined yet another team in 2021, the Tampa Bay Rays, his 10th different squad. On May 25th, in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, he became just the 4th pitcher 40 years or older to strike out 13 batters in a game, following three Hall of Famers: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson and Gaylord Perry. It was already his second game of the year when he had reached double figures in strikeouts. He was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for May, after posting an ERA of 0.78 during the month. He slowed down after that great month and was at 6-4, 3.87 after 19 starts when he was traded by the Rays to the New York Mets for Tommy Hunter and Matt Dyer on July 23rd. The Rays were in a tight division race with the Red Sox at the time, but had earlier that season traded starting SS Willie Adames when they were in a similar position, so it was par for the course for an organization marching to the beat of its own drummer. For their part, the Mets were in first place in spite of a starting rotation beset by injuries, so a pitcher with a lot of recent pennant-race experience was a precious addition. Hill went 1-4 in spite of a 3.84 ERA in 12 starts for the Mets, who ended out of playoff contention. Overall, his record between the two teams was 7-8, 3.86, with 150 strikeouts in 158 2/3 innings. Following the season, on December 1st, he signed a one year deal to return to the Boston Red Sox in 2022.
- Adam Berry: "Over the Hill? Year 17 and just getting started", mlb.com, June 28, 2021. 
- Adam Berry and Ken Gurnick: "Oh my Josh! Unprecedented HR flips no-no to W", mlb.com, August 23, 2017. 
- Scott Boeck: "Dodgers re-sign Rich Hill to three-year, $48 million deal", USA Today Sports, December 5, 2016. 
- Ken Gurnick: "Hill emotional over LA return, 1st big contract: Lefty re-signs with Dodgers for 3 years, $48 million", mlb.com, December 5, 2016. 
- Rich Hill: "I Want to Talk About My Son Brooks", The Players' Tribune, April 30, 2019. 
- Richard Justice: "Hill's masterpiece another achievement in tremendous journey", mlb.com, August 24, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "The blister from hell: Rich Hill, Dodgers haunted by baseball's baffling bubble", USA Today Sports, April 17, 2017. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Hill's remarkable loss among best-pitched defeats: Lefty was perfect into 9th and took no-no into 10th before falling to Pirates", mlb.com, August 24, 2017.