Hill still has lessons to learn
Young pitcher hopes to regroup, return to big leagues
CHICAGO -- Rich Hill has not had the best 24 hours of his young professional life.
The Chicago Cubs rookie pitcher fell to 0-4 after taking the loss in Saturday's 7-0 decision to the White Sox, then called A.J. Pierzynski "gutless" for his play at the plate. On Sunday, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen criticized Hill's comments, the lefty got a lecture from his manager, and then Hill was demoted to Triple-A Iowa.
"Rich hasn't been able to channel the great success he's had in the Minor Leagues up here," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said on Sunday. "His command is lacking, and the inconsistent ability to throw strike one puts him in the hole. [On Saturday], he limited himself to one pitch."
Hill has given up 15 walks and 23 hits over 19 1/3 innings in his four starts. Cubs manager Dusty Baker emphasized that Hill was demoted strictly because of performance and expressed hope that the young pitcher would learn from the whirlwind weekend.
After Saturday's game, Hill criticized Pierzynski for barreling into Cubs catcher Michael Barrett at the plate.
"I think it was pretty gutless over there on their part, him hitting Michael when he didn't have the ball," Hill said after the game. "That's not how you play the game."
On Sunday, Guillen ripped the young pitcher.
"Who is Hill? That ... pitcher last night? Michael realized he was wrong in the interview," Guillen said on Sunday. "Michael realized he overreacted. I've known Michael; I coached Michael. Hill, he should be in Triple-A. He's going to make Dusty Baker be fired. You know, shut up. He just got up here to the big leagues; when you make a comment like that about a cheap shot, you don't know the game. ... Tell Mr. Hill to shut up and pitch before he gets sent down."
Guillen's comments were relayed to Hill.
"He's right," Hill said. "I haven't done anything in this game. I'm just a rookie and shouldn't have been running my mouth. After watching the tape and watching the replay, it looked like a clean play. It was a heat-of-the-moment kind of thing."
Plus, Hill felt he had to defend his teammate.
"That's part of the process that was going on, too, sticking up for Michael," Hill said.
"I think [Hill] was wrong," Hendry said of the pitcher's postgame comments on Saturday. "I have no problem with A.J. running over Michael in that situation. That's baseball. You can block the plate without a ball. I think Michael did the right thing, too. You've got a throw that normally might get there in time. [Left fielder Matt Murton] didn't get behind it well. Michael did the right thing, too. A lot of times you see guys get out of the way and not willing to take the hit. Rich was wrong making those comments."
And Hill heard about it from his manager.
"I've had a number of talks with Hill myself," Baker said. "Sometimes, the young man speaks more than he listens. It's part of the problem.
"What Pierzynski did was baseball -- good, clean hard-nosed baseball," Baker said. "What happened after that is a different story."
Hill did get a chance to watch the replay.
"The comments I made were in the heat of the moment," Hill said. "After looking at the tape and watching the replay, it was a clean play. I looked at it, and I was going for the ball and didn't really see what was going on behind me. At that time, I was caught in the moment."
It's been a tough stretch for the lefty.
"This is about as low as it gets," he said.
Now, he returns to Iowa to try to regroup.
"It's been a lot of mechanical issues," Hill said. "The fastball command is just not there. Sometimes, when guys get up here, they think they have to do more. I'm learning you don't have to do that; it's the same. I know I can pitch up here. It just takes time."
So, does he listen?
"I think sometimes I get in my own way, if that makes sense," Hill said. "I try to think I know everything already, and that's obviously not the way to go about it. I've started to listen and am trying to take everybody's advice. I've run into problems taking the wrong people's advice. Maybe part of that is saying, watch who you listen to. You try to take advice from everybody."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.