June 2014: Hill was the Royals' 32nd round pick, out of Bacone College in Muscogee, Oklahoma.
Tim posted a record of 10-2 and a 1.89 ERA and 100 strikeouts while leading Bacone to the NAIA World Series Opening Round. Additionally, Hill won the RRAC's pitching triple crown, leading the conference in wins, strikeouts and ERA while earning the RRAC Pitcher of the Year honor for 2014.
As a Royals rookie, Tim looked in the mirror and hardly recognized himself. A skeleton, he thought. He needed to take a photo, perhaps just to remind himself one day of this trying time in his life.
It was the fall of 2015, and Hill was near completion of eight months of chemotherapy. Incredibly, he had lost 70 pounds during the treatment. He stood 6-foot-1, 150 pounds. "I kind of looked at myself and said, 'Who is this guy?'"
About nine months earlier, Hill had been diagnosed with colon cancer. Hill showed great potential in his first year as a professional in 2014, posting a combined 1.64 ERA in two stops in the low Minors for the Royals. But in the spring of 2015, Hill noticed something was off during his conditioning.
"I couldn't catch my breath when I was running," Hill said. "I knew that was weird because I'd been working out and was in great shape, I thought."
A routine blood test conducted by the Royals provided some answers: He had about half of the hemoglobin a normal person should. Hill suspected the worst. His father, Jerry, had died of colon cancer eight years earlier when Hill was 17. "They didn't catch his until it was too late," Hill said. "It was Stage 4."
After the blood test, Hill got a colonoscopy. The physician located a tumor that would need to be biopsied. "But the doctor knew," Hill said. "He said, 'I've been doing this 30 years. This is going to come back cancerous.'"
The doctor was right when the biopsy returned. Hill had Stage 3 colon cancer. There was evidence the cancer was in his lymph nodes as well. Hill faced a long road of treatment ahead. "The toughest part, I think, was trying to tell my mom," Hill said. "She'd been through this before with my dad. I think it's tougher when you have a loved one who has cancer. If it's you, you just immediately think survival and what you have to do. That's human instinct. I wasn't scared as much as I was shocked."
Yet, Hill did have some trepidation. He watched his father, maybe the toughest guy he knew, battle the disease and lose. His father was someone who once accidentally sliced open his hand and stitched it back up by himself, right in front of Tim. "He was just as tough as they come," Hill said.
First things first, Hill had surgery, a procedure that removed half of his colon. Then radiation. Then chemo. "The chemo was only supposed to last six months," Hill said. "But mine went eight months because I had to stop treatments a couple times. You're supposed to go six weeks on, two weeks off, six weeks on, two weeks off, and so on. But I would make it four weeks and I would have to stop because I couldn't eat, and if you don't eat, they can't give you the medicine. I got pancreatitis during it, too. It was hard."
But Hill was determined to make it through. And by November of 2015, he completed his chemo. "The next month, the Royals sent me to a minicamp, and when I showed up, they saw I weighed 150 pounds," Hill said. "It was probably shocking to them. But the Royals really took good care of me throughout this."
The good news was the cancer was gone. And as the chemo began to cycle out of his body, Hill finally begin to gain weight again. By Spring Training, Hill had begun working out consistently again and had put on 60 pounds. "People asked, 'How did you do it?' I said, 'I started eating again,'" Hill said, with a grin. On the mound, Hill never lost his edge, either. By the fall of 2017, Hill was placed on the 40-man roster for the first time. "It was great to tell my family that good news," he said.
But there were more phone calls with good news to come, like this spring when Hill made the 25-man roster for the first time. And he has made the most of his chance, having not given up a hit in his first seven Major League outings. But Hill, 28, must cope with constant reminders. He has a colonoscopy once a year and multiple blood tests to make sure he remains cancer-free.
Hill also now knows he has Lynch syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, particularly cancers of the colon. Lynch syndrome is passed on genetically, and doctors have told Hill that his father passed the gene onto him, though no one tested his father for the condition at the time.
Still, Hill does his best to stay in the present, stay positive. He's in the big leagues. And most important, he's cancer-free. "I don't really give it much thought anymore," Hill said. "It was what it was. It made me stronger. It's in my past, let's hope." (Flanagan - mlb.com - 4/20/18)
Tim said he felt a bit off at spring training in 2015.
“I didn’t really think too much of it,” he said, “But on a routine blood test, they found my hemoglobin was about half what it should have been. They said, ‘There’s definitely a problem. We want to find out what it is.’" His father died of colon cancer.
“The doctors did a colonoscopy and sure enough they found a tumor,” Hill said. “It was Stage 3, so it could have been (caught) earlier but also could have been later. I’m just thankful they caught it when they did and it wasn’t worse than it actually was.
“That whole year, 2015, was pretty tough. I had surgery and about eight months of chemotherapy . . . The Royals were very supportive.”
Tim returned to spring training in 2016, thankful to get through the ordeal.
2019 Season: The season did not get off to a great start for Tim Hill, so he was right in line with the rest of the Royals bullpen. The two games he saw in March were fairly smooth, giving up some walks, but no hits or runs. April was not as smooth. He managed the first few games he saw fine, but his ERA quickly shot up to 9.00 for the month.
Hill was sent down to the minors to get everything sorted out, and he did just that. When he came back up in June, he saw just a few innings but was able to start chipping away at his ERA. Then in July, the gloves were off. Hill saw 11 games, recording 8.1 innings, giving up 2 runs, walking 3 and striking out 7 for a monthly ERA of 2.16.
He saw a little more struggle in August when adding more innings to his plate, but again found his footing in September when he managed 11.1 innings, gave up 3 runs, walked 2, and struck out 15.
Hill ended the season with 46 games and 39.2 innings, an ERA of 3.63 and an FIP of 3.84. At times he struggled to keep teams from scoring on him, but as the season went on, he found his form and managed to put up decent numbers for the season. (David Scharff - Feb. 2, 2020)
2020 season shortened by Covid-19: Tim decided there was no way he would opt out of the 2020 season. Of course, Hill had every reason to be concerned. Five years ago, he survived Stage 3 colon cancer. Hill has another condition to contend with that would make him high risk: He has Lynch syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, especially colon cancer.
Now, at 10 days into camp, he hasn’t questioned his decision to play. And that’s even after several Royals have tested positive for COVID-19. “I still stick by my decision,” Hill said. “There has been some concern with people testing positive, but I still feel like I made the right decision. I want to play.”
Royals manager Mike Matheny knew it could be a difficult choice for Hill. “It is truly amazing what he’s been through at so young an age,” Matheny said. “We knew he was going to be in a certain tier for risk. It just shows you how much he loves this organization, his teammates. We’ll do everything we can to keep him protected. The onus is on us, too.”
Hill said he feels especially safe with all the protocols the Royals and MLB have put into place. “As far as the procedures the Royals are taking, it makes me comfortable,” Hill said. “They want to make sure we’re safe. I think they’re doing a great job at what they’re doing. I think everyone is learning as we go.”
A healthy and strong Hill can be a formidable weapon for the Royals. His sidearm, almost submarine, delivery provides the Royals’ bullpen a unique option and look, especially against lefties. “He’s got something different, no doubt about it,” Matheny said. “Righties don’t necessarily enjoy facing him, either. That’s going to be a big part of our game, to match up.
Matheny is looking forward to utilizing Hill’s strengths. “He looks strong and he has improved his timing on his breaking ball,” Matheny said. “Physically, he’s in a good place, and that’s the key for him—feeling strong out there.” (Flanagan - mlb.com - 7/13/2020)
June 2014: Hill was the Royals' 32nd round pick, out of Bacone College in Muscogee, Oklahoma.
July 16, 2020: The Royals sent LHP Tim Hill to the Padres; acquiring RHP Ronald Bolaños and outfielder Franchy Cordero.
- Nov 30, 2021: Hill signed a one-year deal with the Padres for $1.3 million.
|Birth City:||Sylmar, CA|
|Draft:||Royals #32 - 2014 - Out of Bacone College (OK)|
|2015||-||DL - Cancer|
Hill is a lefthander with closer stuff, but is probably going to be a lefty-on-lefty reliever, eventually. His 90-93 mph 2-seam SINKER has incredible movement. His 4-seam FASTBALL is in the 91-95 mph. He also has an 84-86 mph SLIDER and 87-90 mph CHANGEUP that needs more separation from his heater, but he doesn't throw it very much, anyway.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 31.3% of the time, his Sinker 45.2%; Change less than 1%; and Slider 23.2% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.2 mph, Sinker 91.2, Change 88.7, and Slider 81 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 30.2% of the time, his Sinker 44.8%; Change less than 1%; and Slider 24.7% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 90.8 mph, Sinker 90.3, Change 85.2, and Slider 78.3 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 47.1% of the time, his Sinker 43.6%; and Slider 9.3% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam Fastball 91.6 mph, Sinker 89.9, and Slider 80.6 mph.
Tim gets loads of ground balls. He comes at hitters from somewhere between a sidearm and a three-quarters arm slot. That delivery gives hitters fits.
"I cannot really throw the ball overhand,” he said.
Big League hitters have had a tough time picking up pitches from Tim. On May 16, 2018, in Tim's rookie season, batters were hitting just .229 against him and striking out almost a hitter per inning. But do you know who else is having a tough time picking up Hill's pitches? Home-plate umpires.
According to Statcast™ charts of the strike zone, umpires already perhaps have missed 12 Hill pitches that were called balls but likely were strikes. Some were blatantly obvious, like the time in Cleveland when Hill issued a four-pitch walk although two of his two-seam fastballs clearly were inside the grid.
The Royals believe part of the problem is that Hill's effective and unique sidearm motion has caught umpires a little off-guard. "All three of us, hitters, catchers, and umpires are used to seeing pitches coming over the top," Royals catcher Drew Butera said. "Something that unique and different from Timmy may take some time to get used to.
"His ball is different. Sometimes it rises. Sometimes the sinker really drops high in the zone. He has so much movement on his ball from a unique angle. Umpires have a tough enough time as it is picking up the ball. It's a tough job for them."
Hill said he isn't upset about being squeezed. "I just thought the zone was a little smaller up here," Hill said, shrugging his shoulders. "But most of the time they are pretty good up here."
When it was pointed out that at least one of his pitches that clearly seemed out of the zone was called a strike for him, Hill smiled and said, "You get some love, too."
Hill will be patient. "I think the good thing is they probably watch video and they'll adjust," Hill said. "You know, it can be a coincidence, too. It's a small sample so far."
At any rate, Hill said he never really has noticed getting squeezed at other levels of professional baseball. "I guess I never really thought about it personally," Hill said. "It's not like he didn't call my pitch. He just missed that pitch." (Flanagan - mlb.com - 5/16/18)
2019 Improvements: Hill last season had relied primarily on his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, along with his slider. This offseason, Hill has been trying to develop a changeup, which could be a weapon, especially against right-handed hitters, who posted a .774 OPS against Hill in 2018.
2020 Season: Hill’s arrival before the late-July start of the season was curious for a number of reasons. One, the Padres had been high on OF Franchy Cordero’s ceiling and RHP Ronald Bolaños had more than five years of control, quite a hefty price for a late-blooming, 30-year-old reliever. Two, Hill was a lefty specialist and baseball was instituting a three-batter-minimum rule for the first time. He’d held lefties to a .211 average his first two years in the Majors, nearly 50 points better than his splits against right-handed-hitters.
Of course, under the new rules, Hill would have to face at least three hitters unless finishing an inning, and that, combined with some timely pinch-hitting moves, pushed Hill into some unfavorable matchups at times in his first year in San Diego. Two of the three home runs he allowed came against righties. Right batters had a .258/.324/.516 batting line against Hill; compared to lefties’ .225/.311/.350 line.
He was also much better at home (2.70 ERA) than away from Petco Park (9.64 ERA) and not especially effective in high-leverage spots (.267/.353.533) in an inconsistent debut in the NL. He rattled off a string of 9 1/3 scoreless innings from Aug. 11 through Sept. 15. After allowing four runs over his last 4 2/3 innings, Hill allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings over two postseason appearances. (Jeff Sanders - Dec. 21, 2020)
Entering the 2021 season, Tim Hill hadn’t pitched more than 45.2 innings in a season. He’d surpass that total by 14 innings in 2021. If you ask the front office, they probably would tell you that they didn’t want Hill pitching that many innings considering he is better utilized in situations where there’s a left-handed batter. However, they had to use Hill more often partly because of Drew Pomeranz’s injury-riddled campaign.
Pomeranz hit the IL three different times. And when he was on the IL, Hill was Jayce Tingler’s best and sometimes only left-handed reliever available.
Hill, 31, predictably struggled later on in the season, as he wasn’t as fresh. But he was dominant in the first half of the year. Opponents hit just .215 off of him before the All-Star break, as he struck out (39) three times the number of batters that he walked (13).
In the second half of the season, Hill only struck out 17 batters and doubled the amount batters he hit. His ERA was almost three runs higher than it was in the first half. You could attribute that to fatigue, but he also obviously didn’t have as great of command as he had in the first half of the season.
Hill’s final tallies were an ERA of 3.62 with 56 strikeouts and 23 walks in 59.2 innings. (Ben Fadden@ben_fadden Oct 16, 2021)
- As of the start of the 2021, Tim had a career record of: 6-4 with a 4.18 ERA, having allowed 11 home runs and 94 hits in 103 innings.
June 20-September 25, 2015: In the minors, Hill was on the D.L. with colon cancer (see Personal section).
- May 5-20, 2022: Tim was on the IL with left shoulder inflammation