Dodgers keep free-agent pitcher Rich Hill with 3-year deal
OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Those days of pitching for the Long Island Ducks, out of the majors and almost out of luck, happily seem far away now for Rich Hill.
The left-hander who resurrected his career after a detour to independent ball got stability and a lot more Monday. The free agent re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for three years and $48 million, then frequently paused to steady himself while talking about that winding path.
“I think it’s something that has been an incredible journey to get to this point, but never did I ever think that I would pack it in,” the 36-year-old Hill said at the winter meetings in suburban Washington.
“I never thought I was done,” he said,
Still, to many, he seemed stuck. At least, that’s how it appeared when he threw twice for the Ducks in 2015 in what amounted to a tryout. That earned him a shot with Boston to end the season, and then he flourished this year.
Hill went a combined 12-5 with a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts for the Dodgers and Oakland. He was 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA in six starts for Los Angeles after being acquired in a five-player deal on the Aug. 1 trade deadline
Hill was 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in three postseason starts for the NL West champion Dodgers, tossing six scoreless innings to win Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.
“When you fail, you learn. I don’t think you really know what failure is — or I didn’t know what failure was until I got older and understood that that was experience,” he said.
Health has been a big key to Hill’s resurgence. He has endured serious injuries throughout his career, including a torn labrum in 2009 and elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2011.
Hill threw seven perfect innings against Miami last Sept. 10, but manager Dave Roberts removed Hill from the game because of a recurrence of blisters on his pitching hand. He also had a groin injury.
“I think it’s such an outlier from last year, the way that that blister was — how it came about, it wasn’t necessarily a typical pitcher’s blister that you would think of, it was more of a wound, so to speak. I think moving forward there would be no issues moving forward with that,” Hill said.
His presence gives the Dodgers another left-hander besides ace Clayton Kershaw in the rotation.
Hill has a 38-28 career record with a 4.10 ERA in 221 games in 12 major league season with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Angels, Yankees, A’s and Dodgers.
Hill gets a $2 million signing bonus and salaries of $12 million next year, $16 million in 2018 and $18 million in 2019.
“I guess it’s a relief in a way,” said wife Caitlin, who joined Hill at a news conference, along with Dodgers management and his agents, brothers Sam and Seth Levinson. “We’re not surprised. I think he always knew that he could do this.”
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said he didn’t hesitate to give a pitcher in his mid-to-late 30s a three-year deal.
“Well, I think anytime in free agency there are risks that you take. Again, so much of our confidence comes from knowing him,” Friedman said.
“Then, truly that burning desire to win, it’s hard for me to — there aren’t 10 guys that I’ve been around in my career that ranked as highly as Rich does in terms of having that truly innate, burning desire to win.”
Not that Hill comes across as a fiery, win-at-all-costs competitor. Dressed in a suit and tie, he quietly walked out a hotel ballroom with his wife and 5-year-old son Brice, and quickly blended in with the crowd.
A fan in a Cardinals hat did ask for an autograph, and that merely piqued the interest of another passer-by.
“Who was that?” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
AP Sports Writers Beth Harris and Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.