Orioles Not Ready To Move Hill To 'Pen

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'He's A Starter,' Kranitz Says, After Rare Relief Appearance

July 19, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

CHICAGO -- It wasn't a surprise for Rich Hill, and it wasn't supposed to be a glimpse into the future either.

Hill was informed before Friday's game that he might be used for an inning so he could face live hitters before his first start of the second half Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

When the Orioles fell behind the Chicago White Sox, 10-5, after Friday's sixth inning, Hill got the call to enter in the seventh - his first big league relief appearance since Aug. 15, 2006, when he was with the Chicago Cubs.

"I have a lot of respect for the guys in the bullpen, being able to do the job that they do and being ready within five to 10 pitches," Hill said. "It is different coming out of the bullpen, being ready to just turn it on and execute your pitches."

Hill walked the first batter he faced and allowed a double to the second. In all, he faced four batters - three reached base and two scored.

"It was just something that I wanted to get some work in and, I guess, that's all that happened," he joked.

After battling injuries last year, Hill said, he considered the possibility of converting to a relief role. Now that he is healthy, though, that's not in his plans.

"Last season, it was a tough year, not being able to pitch, so, yeah, I did think about it because I didn't know how my back would respond," Hill said. "Right now, I really enjoy starting and I feel like I am getting back into the swing of things."

Hill is 3-2 with a 6.92 ERA in 11 starts, but his final outing of the first half was one of his best, as he went six innings and allowed just two runs to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 11. It reinforced the Orioles' belief that Hill can be an effective starter if he can command his fastball consistently.

"He's a starter," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "There's always that possibility [Hill being moved to the bullpen]. But he still has value starting. He has shown the capability, like doing what he did against Toronto."

If the Orioles decide to promote top prospect Chris Tillman (8-5, 2.42 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk) in the near future, it's more likely that Jason Berken (1-7, 6.44), not Hill, would be the odd man out of the rotation.

Lefty streak continues

Saturday's game against Chicago's Mark Buehrle marked the ninth straight time the Orioles have faced a left-handed starter, tying a major league record held by various teams. It happened most recently to the New York Yankees in July 1980. The Orioles have experienced it one other time in club history: Aug. 9-20, 1955.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley said the run of left-handers has been a strange coincidence, but it hasn't been a problem.

"I think it has been an unusual rotation that we've faced, but what are you going to do about it?" Trembley said. "I have much more of a challenge doing a lineup when there is no DH, when you are playing National League clubs. That's the challenging part of the season because you are playing with one less guy. This has just been something you deal with."

The streak ends today, when the White Sox start right-hander Jose Contreras.

"It is something that occurred," Trembley said. "Maybe in 30 years it'll happen to somebody else's team."

Sox feel at home on Fox

The Orioles were featured for the first time this season on Fox's Saturday broadcast, but the White Sox are no stranger to the network.

Saturday's game marked the fifth time this year that Fox has aired a White Sox game. And it's been a pretty good trend for the South Siders.

With Saturday's win, the White Sox are 5-0 in Fox games this season. In those contests, they have scored 31 runs and allowed just nine earned runs.

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