Long Road Back for Hill Includes Finding Control
Ken Hill’s two-strike pitch to Omar Vizquel with runners on second and third in the second inning Wednesday night caught the inside corner but was about an inch below Vizquel’s knees.
Vizquel then drilled Hill’s next pitch up the middle for a two-run single, giving the Cleveland Indians a 3-1 lead in a game they would eventually win, 9-1.
This is how this spring has gone for Hill--since his first Cactus League start he has been throwing 95 mph with plenty of movement on his cut-fastball and split-fingered pitch, but the right-hander has had trouble harnessing this new-found energy, and his pitches have been slightly off the mark.
“It’s like I’m starting over,” said Hill, who was sidelined for 2 1/2 months last season because of surgery to remove bone chips and shave down a bone spur in his elbow. “I feel so good, I’ve got to tone myself down.”
Hill pitched the first two months of 1998 in pain, and to compensate he changed his arm angle slightly to relieve stress on his elbow. Now that his elbow is healed, Hill said he has been trying to adjust to the proper mechanics he’s been using this season.
“I’m not all over the place--when I miss, it’s just by a little,” said Hill, who gave up four runs--two earned--on six hits in 4 1/3 innings Wednesday. “The velocity is there. The arm strength is there. The biggest thing is locating my fastball.”
Manager Terry Collins believes that once Hill finds his control, he’ll return to the dominant pitcher he was at the end of 1997, when he was 3-1 with a 1.37 earned-run average in his last six starts.
“He’s getting close,” Collins said.
The Baltimore Orioles got there first, but the Angels still hope to play an exhibition in Cuba next spring.
“We are reaching out to the Hispanic marketplace,” Angel President Tony Tavares said. “I think it would be good for that. I think getting Angel identification outside of Anaheim would be good. And I think it’s good for the game of baseball.”
The Angels also would consider a return game against a Cuban team in Anaheim, Tavares said. The Orioles played a Cuban all-star team in Havana on March 28, the first visit to Cuba by a major league team in 40 years, with a rematch scheduled May 3 at Baltimore.
The Clinton administration in January announced a series of humanitarian exceptions to the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, but negotiations dragged as the U.S. government refused to allow the Cuban government to handle proceeds from the charity games. The Angels hope to use any profit to repair baseball fields in Cuba and provide equipment to children there, Tavares said.
The Angels have applied for but have not yet received the Treasury Dept. license that would allow them to travel to Cuba and negotiate terms of play, Tavares said. The commissioner’s office and the two governments would have to approve any game.
Giving up five runs on four hits and retiring one batter Wednesday night was not exactly the way Angel pitcher Scott Schoeneweis envisioned his major league debut.
But was the 25-year-old left-hander at least glad he got his feet wet in a big league game?
“I think I got my whole body wet,” said Schoeneweis, who emerged with a 135.0 ERA. “I couldn’t even see land from where I was. I know one thing, I’ll always remember the guy I got out.”
That was Sandy Alomar, on a fielder’s choice. Schoeneweis, however, rebounded nicely Thursday night, giving up one unearned run and one hit in two relief innings.
There was a rare Gary DiSarcina sighting Thursday night, but the Angel shortstop, who has not addressed the media since undergoing surgery last week to have a pin placed in the broken bone in his left forearm, was in no mood to talk.
“I’m in my stealth-mode,” he said.
* Opponent--Texas Rangers, four games.
* Site--The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.
* Record vs. Rangers--5-7 in 1998.
* TV--KCAL, Channel 9 Saturday night, ESPN Sunday night, KCAL Monday.
* Radio--KLAC 570.
* Records--Angels 1-1 (UPDATE), Rangers 2-1.
ANGELS’ CHUCK FINLEY (11-9, 3.39 ERA in 1998)
RANGERS’ JOHN BURKETT (9-13, 5.68 ERA in 1998)
* Update--You can bet that Ranger shortstop Royce Clayton is avoiding stepladders and cracks in sidewalks after Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina (broken bone in forearm) and Seattle Mariner shortstop Alex Rodriguez (torn knee cartilage) went down with major injuries. Finley would have been the Angels’ opening-day starter if not for muscle spasms in his upper back that slowed him in spring training. The left-hander has been notoriously ineffective in Texas, going 3-9 with a 6.85 ERA in his last 12 games at Arlington, and he has a 7-16 career record and 4.32 ERA against the Rangers. With Angel starters failing to get out of the fifth inning in the first three games and the bullpen combining for 14 1/3 innings in the three games, Collins is glad he decided to open with 12 pitchers, including seven relievers. “I’m almost wondering if 12 is going to be enough,” he said.
* Saturday, 5:30 p.m.--Omar Olivares (0-0, 0.00) vs. Rick Helling (0-1, 15.00).
* Sunday, 5 p.m.--Tim Belcher (0-0, 10.40) vs. Aaron Sele (1-0, 0.00).
* Monday, 11:30 a.m.--Ken Hill (0-1, 4.15) vs. Mark Clark (0-0, 8.31).
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