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Saturday 25th Mar 2017

Hill may not be on hill much longer

 

After a rainout, a relief appearance and a “B” game start in earlier games this spring, former Cubs and Orioles left-hander Rich Hill, now with the Cardinals,  took the mound to face the Atlanta Braves in Jupiter, Florida on Thursday.

 

Continuing his pattern of the last two years, Hill couldn’t find the plate, walking five and making a costly two-base throwing error to allow the Braves’ first run to score. Playing the Superman role of Jason Heyward, Chipper Jones took Hill deep on a mammoth shot after one of the walks, with the ball landing on the roof of the Marlins’ building far past the left-field wall.

 

Placing himself third in the three-way battle for the Cardinals #5 starter’s job, Hill needed 79 pitches to get through three innings. Righty Kyle McClellan will start Friday evening and lefty Jaime Garcia will get his first spring start on Monday against Houston. Especially watch the latter as a dark-horse NL pick this season.

 

Unfortunately for him, Braves centerfielder Nate McLouth could not wait for Hill to walk him. The centerfielder struck out in his first two at-bats to extend his spring futility mark to 1-for-30 (.033).

 

His counterpart on the other club, second-year player Colby Rasmus, made a Gold Glove-quality play on a diving backhanded snare of a Martin Prado drive in deep right center to save at least one run. Rasmus then drove in the Cards’ first run with a triple. The 23-year-old continues to hit cleanup while Matt Holliday remains out and has a Pujolsian OPS pushing 1.100 this spring. Breakout alert!

 

Like McLouth, Cards second baseman Skip Schumaker, is not hitting well this spring, in the .120 range. While not at risk of losing his job, Schumaker could sit against left-handers in favor of Felipe Lopez. Lopez should get 450 plate appearances as Tony La Russa will move him all over. Expect him to qualify at second, third and perhaps the outfield, too.

 

Tim Hudson was his old, efficient self, going five innings on four hits and one run. He fanned four and walked no one. None of the balls off him were struck particularly hard other than Rasmus’ triple. Hudson’s spring ERA is 1.93 and his strikeout to walk ratio on the spring is 13 to 1. Buy.

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