Chicago Cubs: Koyie Hill
Hill was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds on May 19 for cash considerations after Steve Clevenger, Welington Castillo and Geovany Soto all were injured. He played in 11 games batting .179 (11-for-39) with an RBI and three runs scored.
Hill was playing at Double-A Pensacola in the Reds system before he was acquired.
CHICAGO – Veteran catcher Koyie Hill, who was designated for assignment on Thursday, has cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa.
Hill still has a short window of time to decide if he will accept the outright or become a free agent.
He was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds on May 19 for cash considerations after Welington Castillo and Geovany Soto went down with injuries. Hill was designated when Castillo returned from the disabled list.
At the time he was acquired, Hill was playing at Double-A in the Reds’ system.
Clevenger was activated Tuesday after spending a month on the disabled list with a strain in his side and a cracked rib, an injury that occurred as he swung a bat during batting practice. Blake Lalli was optioned back to Triple-A Iowa.
Clevenger’s injury was the first in a series of three to Cubs catchers over the course of 10 days. Geovany Soto (partially torn meniscus) and Welington Castillo (MCL sprain) also went to the DL.
Koyie Hill started at catcher Tuesday, but Clevenger will take a huge chunk of his playing time moving forward.
“We’ll ease into it here at the beginning but he’ll play quite a bit once he gets his feet underneath him and gets back into everyday shape,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It will probably be two out of three every other day.”
The Clevenger-Hill tandem should be in action for another two weeks. At that point Castillo and Soto could be close to returning to active duty. Castillo could be sent down when he is healthy again. Hill figures to stay on the big-league roster until Soto returns.
The previously catching-deep Cubs now have three catchers nursing injuries with Steve Clevenger and Geovany Soto on the disabled list and Welington Castillo dealing with an aching MLC. Castillo will be re-examined Tuesday to see if also will be headed to the DL.
So even though Blake Lalli was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Friday, it is Hill who will get the bulk of the playing time for now. He was acquired by the Cubs from the Cincinnati Reds for cash considerations and summoned from Double-A Pensacola.
“That was the whole point of going down there,” Hill said. “I went home for a month. We weighed over some options. We passed over some jobs, we thought about some jobs, offers. They have a brand new ballpark down there (in Pensacola). I was playing four or five days a week. (Jim) Riggleman was the manager. Rudy (Jaramillo’s) nephew was the hitting coach. It was about as good of a situation as you could get.”
Hill said retirement finally started to creep into his head this year, but he stayed with the game long enough to not only see the major leagues again but to see it with the Cubs.
“I thought about (retirement) every day,” Hill said. “I think anybody that’s thinking clearly would think about it every day. That’s just natural. But I have a really good support system and I really appreciate it. It’s not the first time we’ve had to go through something and we’ve come out on the bright side of it.”
To put an exclamation point on the entire proceedings, on Saturday Hill got to catch one his best friends in the game, Ryan Dempster.
It’s funny how baseball works sometimes.
“It’s crazy, it’s beautiful, it’s frustrating, it’s rewarding, it’s everything,” Hill said. “There are some thoughts that went through my head that never went through my head before. You’ve had a nice run at it and the next thing you know you’re trying to catch a 22-year-old guy that throws half his pitches off the backstop. You’re thinking surely there’s got to be something else to do at home and see my girls every day. You just don’t leave anything on the table.”
The reality is that Hill could be gone as quickly as he arrived. When one of the three injured Cubs catchers return he still figures to stay with the club, but once two of them are healthy it’s more than likely that he is gone.
For now, though, he isn’t thinking about all of that.
“It was worth it,” he said.
The 32-year-old Hill hit .194 with two home runs and nine RBIs in his third complete season with the Cubs in 2011.
With Hill known as a top-flight defensive catcher, last season the Cubs looked beyond his .211 lifetime batting average, trusting him with handling the team’s pitching staff when starter Geovany Soto wasn’t in the lineup.
The Cubs have two young catchers, Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, advancing toward the major leagues and therefore the team opted to let Hill, who made $850,000 in 2011, become a free agent rather than go to arbitration with him.
The Cubs have five other players who are arbitration eligible. Pitchers Matt Garza and Randy Wells, infielders Jeff Baker and Ian Stewart and Soto.
Stewart was acquired by the Cubs from the Colorado Rockies in a Dec. 9 trade.
The Chicago Cubs are starting to look like a different team. With Friday’s 3-1 win over the New York Yankees, the Cubs have won four out of five games for the first time all season.
Catcher Koyie Hill acknowleged the mindset of the team has definitely changed in the past few days.
“We just all made an agreement with each other that we’re going to do whatever we need to do,” Hill said. “Maybe there’s a little more urgency in that department. You’ve got 25 guys in here that are playing for each other and not much else. I think that helps.”
Whatever it is that has gotten into this team, the bottom line is that they’re playing better ball. Great starting pitching -- Doug Davis allowed only one run in 7 1/3 innings -- and a packed ballpark -- a crowd of 42,219 marked the fifth consecutive game where the Cubs drew at least 39,000 -- has definitely helped.
Cubs manager Mike Quade praised his battery of Davis and Hill for its strong performance on Friday.
“[They] just confounded them; He and Hilly were incredible,” said Quade. “[Davis] threw more strikes today and he was around the plate more. Today he had everything that he has to offer [working]. That’s a pretty [darn] good lineup they were getting out too.”
Davis shut down an offense that boasts two of the three co-leaders in home runs. Yankees’ sluggers Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are tied with Toronto Blue Jays' outfielder Jose Bautista atop baseball with 21 homers.
However, as great as Davis’ surprising performance was, the talk of the clubhouse seemed to be the playoff-like atmosphere at Wrigley. It’s a feeling that’s definitely been lacking this season, and Quade said that it not only was it the biggest crowd of the season, but the best.
Davis said the crowd helped him get that extra boost when he needed it.
“[The atmosphere] was awesome; It was more than expected for sure,” Davis said. “Everyone was into the game and you get those extra butterflies when you strike a guy out . . . definitely keeps you going.”
Outfielder Reed Johnson helped add to fans’ excitement when he came into the game in the ninth for his defense and got the crowd on their feet with a spectacular catch for the first out of the inning.
“I think it’s good for the younger players and good for the guys that have never played here,” Johnson said. “They can see how fun it will be here when we do win. To finally see that atmosphere again, it’s a good thing.”
It’s no doubt fun for the fans to watch a team win some games, but it’s having fun on the field that the Cubs had apparently not been doing.
“We just can’t forget that the game is fun,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you get caught up in the pressure of the game or the pressure of the city and we forget to have fun playing baseball.”
Although the Cubs still sit 11 games under .500 at 29-40, beating strong teams like the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers to get back on the winning track is the best way to make things fun once again. And if this recent stretch has been enjoyable for the Cubs, getting their first three-game winning streak of the season -- something they would accomplish with a win on Saturday --would be sublime.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs catcher Koyie Hill can relate to the plight of the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey.
Posey was injured during a hard collision at home plate with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on Wednesday night. Cousins lowered a shoulder and hit Posey full force, causing the catcher to go backwards. He is likely out for the season with a fractured bone in his lower left leg.
Cousins chose to dive into Posey rather than slide as he tried to score the winning run in the 12th inning. He was safe, and the Marlins beat the Giants 7-6.
Hill had a nasty collision of his own in 2004 when he broke an ankle that required three screws to be inserted into his foot.
"It's kind of all protected under the same rule," Hill said of Posey's collision. "Unless you see somebody leave their line to the plate to hunt down somebody then I don't think it will fall under that gray area. Only the runner knows in his heart if he could have avoided it or not."
Some, including Posey's agent Jeff Berry, believe a rule change should occur after this latest incident. Berry said he would ask Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre to look into changing the rule regarding blocking home plate.
"Could [Cousins] have slid? Yeah, you can slide on just about every play," Hill said. "But he made up his mind that it's going to be a tough play at home. These are two teams at the top of their division, and they are scratching for every run they can get. The decision he made was to try and knock the ball loose. That's what he went with, that's the way of the road sometimes."
Catchers blocking home plate have always been a part of the game. The Rangers' Josh Hamilton was out for a month after sliding head-first into home earlier this season. The hypocritical part of those calling for rules changes are simply explained. The Giants lost a superstar catcher for an extended period of time after the collision. Do you think anyone would be making this a big story if it was Hill getting wiped out and breaking an ankle again?
Nobody likes to see great young players like Posey get hurt. But plays at home plate are a big part of the game. That's how the game has been played for 135 years.
Cousins could have slid and broken a leg as well. Do you think this would be as big of a story if that happened?
It took five home starts for Matt Garza to get his first Wrigley Field win.
The 27-year-old had to wait out a 53-minute rain delay before coming back for the third inning in Wednesday’s victory.
“I just relaxed,” Garza said. “I got on a bike a little bit and waited until the rain stopped. I just play some catch. I’m the type of guy that can’t get too fiery. I have to stay more to the mellow point.”
The Cubs supported Garza with a 17-hit attack that included a double and triple from light-hitting catcher from Koyie Hill.
“I’ve been really working on the triple,” Hill joked. “I thought ‘what can I do the offseason to improve my game.’ I thought ‘hit more triples.”’
On a serious note, Hill was impressed with the way Garza came back after the rain delay.
“It was nice that both pitchers, not just Garza, came back,” Hill said. “I don’t know what he did during that [the delay] but it worked.”
Garza went five innings, giving up just one run. The Cubs scored 11 runs total. Starlin Castro went 4-for-4 with three RBIs. He’s now 6-for10 in the past two games after being dropped in the lineup by manager Mike Quade.
“All I know is there was an 11-spot up there at the end of the day,” Quade said. “That means we must have done some good things.”
The Cubs will try to win the series against the Cards on Thursday afternoon. They have 30
hits in the first two games of the series.
“You worry,” Hill said. “It didn’t hit his face and got him on his hand. It’s tough because he was going out there doing a good job. You just hate to see that happen.”
After the injury, Gorzelanny, at first, wanted to try to stay in the game. However, the Cubs’ training staff convinced Gorzelanny it was time to come out and get the injury treated.
“Everything speeds up so much in those situations,” Hill said. “You know, I think he wanted to have a chance to see how he was, but it was his pitching hand. Even if it was just OK, over a while, it’s going to get to you. He might have had another hitter, but after that, there’s no use in risking it.”
According to a team official, X-rays on Gorzelanny’s hand concluded there was no displaced fracture in the pitchers’ pinky finger. However, doctors ordered a CT scan on the tip of the finger, which is scheduled for Thursday at Northwestern Hospital.
Thomas Diamond won his first big league game in relief of Gorzelanny.
How does interim manager Mike Quade spend a valuable day off at home?
“I’m going to cook [on Thursday] and have some staff and some friends over. I have some family in tomorrow (Quade’s parents are visiting from Naples, Fla.). We’re going to cook and actually watch college football. And if I have a minute or two, maybe I find a racetrack or something. Every so often I go down that road.”
Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .364 with 12 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs since the All-Star break. Fukudome has been playing sporadically due to the glut of outfielders on the Cubs’ roster. The veteran outfielder, through his interpreter, talked about dealing with his part-time play.
“It is difficult to sit for a couple days and try to get back into it,” Fukudome said. “The only thing I can do is do the best I can, and, if I get good results, that’s great. That’s just the way it is.”
Fukudome’s average is up to .281 on the season. His 12 home runs are the most he’s hit in any major league season so far. The Cubs have one year left to pay Fukudome on his original four-year deal. His final year is for $13 million.
I asked Fukudome about trade rumors and whether he expects to be back for the Cubs in 2011.
“Any kind of rumor doesn’t change the fact that I’m actually still playing as a member of the Chicago Cubs,” Fukudome said. “So it doesn’t bother me, just because I don’t have any influence into it. And it is not my decision to make.
The Cubs’ Marlon Byrd, who played three years for the Texas Rangers, has his own ideas about the difference between the leagues.
“I think the leagues are a little different,” Byrd said. “Time of game is definitely impacted; [it is] a little quicker here in the National League cause pitchers hit. With the DH in the American League, at-bats are going to last a little longer. Other than that, I don’t see a major difference. It’s the big leagues, National League teams have won the World Series and American [League] teams have won the World Series. Interleague play doesn’t really tell the whole story. So I’d say [the competition level] is about the same.”
Lou Piniella has coached in both leagues, and has some ideas about the differences between each.
“American League has probably a little more offense,” Piniella said. “The National League probably has [better] relief pitching -- especially in the middle. They score more runs in the American League than in the National League.”
As of June 22, the Cubs are 3-3 in interleague play. The White Sox are 4-2.
“Right now we’re going to play Colvin a little bit and let Fukudome work with his hitting coach,” Piniella said.
1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Ryan Theriot, 2B
3. Derrek Lee, 1B
4. Marlon Byrd, CF
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Fontenot, 3B
7. Starlin Castro, SS
8. Koyie Hill, C
9. Ryan Dempster, P
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Despite leading all GMs in meetings, Jim Hendry was unable to move Milton Bradley during the winter meetings.
Those meetings included discussions with multiple teams in his quest to move outfielder Milton Bradley to a new town and also to start putting together his 2010 team.
The Cubs' roster for next season remains vacant of any new additions since season's end on Oct. 4. The Cubs GM talked to numerous representatives for center fielders such as Marlon Byrd, Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and Mike Cameron, all free agents.
Hendry needs two outfielders, a middle infielder and at least one veteran bullpen guy to complete his team.
The Cubs' bench is vacant after trading Aaron Miles and Jake Fox to Oakland for minor-leaguers and reliever Jeff Gray. The bench currently consists of Andres Blanco, Micah Hoffpauir, Mike Fontenot, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill. That's not exactly looking like the '27 Yankees. Only Baker and Hill are locks to make the 25-man roster on April 4, 2010.
Hendry must act soon on a deal with Tampa, moving Bradley for Pat Burrell. Burrell is owed $9.5 million for one year and Bradley is owed $21.5 for two. If the Cubs can get some relief in the first year of the trade, Hendry would have some flexibility to add to his team, even with a payroll locked in at $140 million.
The problem for Hendry is he has to be fiscally responsible for 2011, when Bradley's backloaded contract hits $13 million. The team will have more flexibility after next season due to the fact that Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee and possibly Aramis Ramirez will all be free agents.
The Rays' deal is still on the table for the Cubs, and it has been for at least six weeks.
In other news on the team, the Cubs will offer contracts to all of their players before Saturday's roster deadline, except rehabbing left-hander Neil Cotts, who will be offered a minor-league deal if he wants to continue to rehab with the Cubs.
Teams must tender contracts to all 40-man roster players by the deadline on Dec. 12.