Ask and ye shall receive. Just one week after lamenting my inability to pull any Orioles from a couple big packs of O-Pee-Chee, I came home to find a bubble mailer stuffed to the brim with O's cards from Patricia and Lucy, whose blog is always a breath of fresh air in the testosterone-addled baseball card blogosphere. There were oodles of goodies inside, including scads of Cal Ripken Juniors and a parcel of cards starring personal favorite Brian Roberts. There was a nifty autographed 2000 Bowman Keith Reed, and lo and behold: this O-Pee-Chee card, featuring the maddeningly scattershot lefty Rich Hill. Now that the pressure is off, maybe the next pack of these that I rip will be sprinkled with a few Birds.
It's just as well that P and L sent me this card, because I would imagine that it offends their general collecting sensibilities. The normally baby-faced southpaw looks dour and weary, and the overcast Fort Lauderdale skies behind him mirror his mood (or possibly have caused it). Rich is showing the photographer his curveball grip, but everything about him says, "Here's the blasted pitch that's caused me so much trouble." If you look closely, you'll also see Hill's name stitched on the side of his glove in blue, a wistful reminder that the Cubs organization that he served for seven years has suddenly and unceremoniously dumped him.
Four months or so after this dreary photo was snapped, Rich is at another sort of crossroads. He's got a winning record (4-2), and the O's have won a large majority of his starts (8-3). But those pretty numbers can be attributed to a robust offense and some remarkable comebacks. Hill was set to be skipped in the rotation just before the All-Star Break, but Jeremy Guthrie's illness bought him another shot. He held the Blue Jays to two runs in six-plus innings, but that lowered his ERA to a still-nasty 6.92. Two years ago, during his breakout season, the lefty struck out nearly three batters for every one he walked; now that number stands at 1.3 to 1. Top prospect Chris Tillman is mowing down the competition at AAA Norfolk, and is already knocking on the door. But don't tell Rich; you might put him in a bad mood.