Orioles fall in Hill's abbreviated start
Left-hander does little to solidify status in rotation
BALTIMORE -- This was supposed to be the start that helped Rich Hill get back on the right track, an attempt to solidify what had become a questionable spot in the Orioles' starting rotation.
It was supposed to be. It wasn't, however. Hill lasted just 2 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on 61 pitches, as the Orioles fell to the Royals on Monday, 5-3.
"You know the tempo of the game is set by the starting pitcher," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said, "and Hill's command wasn't where it needed to be. [Bruce] Chen pitched out of a couple of jams. We needed a two-out hit. And we didn't make enough quality pitches late in the game."
Hill's start Monday was arguably his most important this season. With the expected arrival of rookie pitcher Chris Tillman on Wednesday, the Orioles were faced with the decision of sending a starter to the Minors. The likely candidates for the reassignment? Rookie pitcher Jason Berken and Hill.
Unfortunately for Hill, his performance Monday did little to convince Trembley and the 15,169 in attendance that he belongs in the starting rotation. From the start, it was evident the left-hander was lacking in his command with his pitches, as he walked Kansas City leadoff hitter Willie Bloomquist, who later scored, putting the Orioles into the early hole.
After Baltimore scored runs in both the first and second innings, Hill had another chance to settle in and attack the strike zone. The Royals didn't wait, however. Back-to-back doubles by Billy Butler and Mark Teahen put them ahead once again, 3-2, ending Hill's day on the mound. The 2 1/3 innings marked the shortest outing for Hill in a start this season since a June 7 start in which he lasted just two-thirds of an inning.
"I apologize to the front office and the guys in this clubhouse," Hill said afterward. "It's not something where I go out there and this is what I want. I'm not going out there and wanting to go short in the game and use the bullpen every time I take the ball. My plan is to go out there, start the game and finish it."
Hill also revealed that he has been having issues with his throwing shoulder, a problem he said has led to a lack of consistency for him. Hill said he's not sure what the next step is going to be, or whether he'll have to spend time on the disabled list to nurse the injury.
After the game, Trembley was visibly upset as he searched for answers to his pitcher's struggles, which are becoming more alarming with each start. When asked if Hill has a future in the rotation, Trembley was quick to respond.
"That's something that I'm not ready to say right now, after this game," Trembley said. "The game just ended 15 minutes ago. I'm not ready to say that."
While it was likely a combination of Hill's dismal performance and the Orioles' 56th loss of the season that set the mood in the clubhouse after the game, there were some signs of life from Baltimore's bats.
Aubrey Huff, who entered Monday's game on an 0-for-14 skid, went 2-for-4 with one run scored. He was one of three Orioles to register multiple hits Monday, with Nolan Reimold and Cesar Izturis each earning two hits.
Baltimore came back from one-run deficits twice in the early innings. After Butler singled to left-center to score Bloomquist in the top of the first, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones hit his 15th home run of the season, tying the game at 1.
With a chance to regain the lead in the fifth, the Orioles had the bases loaded with catcher Matt Wieters at the plate. The rookie singled to left, sending Huff home to tie the game at 3, but Reimold was out at the plate as the potential go-ahead run.
But it was the Royals that would have the final say. In the seventh inning, Brayan Pena hit a weak ball that trickled down the third-base line, allowing Butler to score from third and Pena to reach safely, giving the Royals the go-ahead run off Matt Albers (1-4). Kansas City added an insurance run in the eighth inning as a Butler single, his fifth hit of the night, scored Bloomquist.
And as for the decision to send Reimold?
"Juan [Samuel's] the third-base coach and does a very good job and there's two outs," Trembley said. "Reimold has been a very good baserunner. It's still early enough in the game, and I think that's the right call right there."
Brian Eller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.