This is one in a series of stories looking at members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.
He’s the oldest player in Major League Baseball, a wily veteran and a fan favorite. When the Cincinnati Reds selected left-handed pitcher Rich Hill in 1999—the first of three times he was drafted—seven players on the Pirates’ current 40-man roster were less than a year old. Six more hadn’t even been born.
Hill and the Pirates reached an agreement on December 27th for a one year, $8 million contract. The deal became official on January 5th, when the Pirates designated Zach Thompson for assignment to make room for Hill. Pittsburgh will be the 12th big league team he’s played for.
Hill went 8-7 across 26 starts with the Red Sox in 2022 and pitched to a 4.27 ERA. He’s still got gas in the tank, but averaged less than 5 innings per start with Boston. Treating Hill with kid gloves may be the best way for him to succeed with the Pirates. However, his contributions off the field could benefit Pittsburgh more than his throwing arm does.
He’ll provide much-needed veteran leadership for a club that seemed to lack it at times in 2022, when lapses of judgment like Ke’Bryan Hayes’ snacking on sunflower seeds in the middle of a play brought Pittsburgh into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Hill is a professional who knows how to carry himself as such, one who can set an example in a room of budding big leaguers nearly half his age. Entering his age 43 season, his 18th in the majors, he can provide valuable guidance to the Pirates’ fledgling rotation, especially as general manager Ben Cherington looks to add southpaws to the pitching staff.
What’s more, Hill is no stranger to struggle: he’s not a player who took to the game thanks to overpowering talent. A longtime journeyman, Hill bounced around the league for the first decade of his career before enjoying a late-career renaissance, settling down with the Dodgers from 2016 to 2019.
He’s a left-handed pitcher despite doing everything else right-handed: his brother trained him to throw with his off hand, betting it would help him pursue a big league career.
Hill mainly relies on his four-seam fastball, which averaged 88.5 mph, and a 71.8 mph curveball. He possesses an extensive repertoire, also mixing in a sinker, cutter, slider and changeup. With declining velocity, Hill allows a lot of fly balls, so location is paramount. As the saying goes, he’s a pitcher, not a thrower.