Apologetic Hill Could Be Dl-bound

July 28, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

After struggling in another start, potentially his last in an Orioles uniform, left-hander Rich Hill stood in front of his locker and offered a reason and an apology for his poor performances this season.

"I have been having some [tendinitis] issues with the shoulder and we have been doing a good job of keeping the fire down a little bit and unfortunately it is just something that I haven't been able to maintain any consistency with," Hill said.

"Other than that, unfortunately I haven't been able to give any kind of consistent help to this team. I apologize to the front office and the guys in this clubhouse."

In the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, the club's eighth defeat in 10 games since the All-Star break, Hill retired just seven batters while again struggling mightily with his control. He said he has also been dealing with consistent pain, something that could land him on the disabled list.

"There is some in there. It is something I've been dealing with all season and trying to keep it down ... but unfortunately it's something that has lingered around," he said.

Hill walked Royals leadoff hitter Willie Bloomquist on five pitches to start the game, and Bloomquist scored two batters later, putting the Orioles in a 1-0 hole and erasing the good feeling from Sunday's 6-2 win in Boston.

"It's your first game here off of a road trip. You won a big ballgame [Sunday]. You think you've got a little confidence going, a little momentum going," manager Dave Trembley said. "The tempo of the game's got to be established right from the get-go. You've gotta go out and your tempo's gotta be fast-paced. You gotta throw strikes and you gotta put a zero up in that first inning. You can't fall behind."

Trembley would not specifically address whether Hill, who is out of options, was out of the rotation, but either Hill or tonight's starter, Jason Berken, will be removed when top prospect Chris Tillman is recalled to make his major league debut Wednesday.

Hill knew that going in - making his performance - four hits, three walks and three runs in 2 1/3 innings - that much more disappointing. Hill threw 61 pitches and recorded 10 outs or fewer for the fifth time in his 13 starts.

"It's not something where I go out there and this is what I want," Hill said. "I'm not going out there and wanting to go short in the game and use the bullpen every time I take the ball."

If Monday night was the end of the brief Hill era in Baltimore, it concluded fittingly, with four consecutive balls in the third inning to a journeyman with a career .275 on-base percentage. Hill's walk to Royals designated hitter Miguel Olivo was the third he issued in the game and his 40th this season in 57 2/3 innings pitched. Walking Olivo isn't particularly easy, either; it was just his eighth free pass in 261 plate appearances this season.

"I think you evaluate what you see and I think no matter who it is, it all starts with the ability to command the fastball," Trembley said. "The ability to make quality pitches with two strikes, and I would say for the most part that didn't happen often enough tonight on his part."

Olivo's walk came after Hill allowed three straight one-out doubles to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. Trembley came out and removed Hill, who left to a smattering of applause and boos from the announced 15,169.

His ERA ballooned to 7.80 overall and 10.42 at Camden Yards in five starts. Amazingly, he is still 0-0 at home, because the Orioles continually have taken him off the hook.

They did it again in the fifth on a two-out single by Matt Wieters that scored Aubrey Huff to tie the game at 3-3.

The Orioles could have had more, but Nolan Reimold was gunned down at home by former Oriole Ryan Freel, who was in shallow left when he fielded the single.

"Reimold has been a very good base runner," Trembley said. "It's still early enough in the game, and I think that's the right call right there."

The Orioles (42-56) had former teammate Bruce Chen on the ropes but couldn't get a big inning going; they were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position against him. Adam Jones hit his 15th homer, a solo shot in the first, and also picked up an RBI when Chen plunked him with the bases loaded in the second.

After Chen left in the fifth, the Orioles' offense went to sleep, with reliever Robinson Tejeda (1-0) and closer Joakim Soria (16th save) combining to retire the final 11 Orioles hitters.

By then, the damage was done. Hill's ineffectiveness had set the pace.

His spot in the rotation was already in jeopardy; now, he may be headed to the disabled list.

"I don't know what the next step is going to be," Hill said. "We'll see from here. Just prepare for whatever happens."

Box score

for Monday's game PG 4

ROYALS@

ORIOLES

Tonight, 7:05

TV: MASN2

Radio: 105.7.FM

INSIDE

Mora hopes he's here long-term PG 3

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