Could the Yankees' latest bargain-bin pickup Tim Hill be another success story?


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — About a dozen reporters approached New York Yankees reliever Tim Hill. He was sitting at the plastic folding chair in front of his locker and about to put on socks. He was surprised.

“You guys want to talk to me?” Hill said.

For his second straight appearance, Hill played a major role in a Yankees win, this time halting a fifth-inning Tampa Bay Rays rally en route to a tense 2-1 victory at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night. The win halted the team’s two-game losing streak and moved it to within two games of the first-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.

Hill, a lefty sidearmer, took over for struggling starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who had given up a run to cut the Yankees’ lead to one and loaded the bases with just one out.

But Hill got cleanup hitter Josh Lowe to strike out looking on three pitches before forcing Randy Arozarena to line out to right field to end the threat.

When it was over, Hill pounded his glove and yelled.

“I was pumped,” he said, “to say the least.”

“Huge,” Stroman said. “That’s one of those moments in the game where it could kind of go either way. For him to come in, get the punchy and then get the out, I think that’s incredible and it allowed us to take that into the rest of the game.”

Hill also pitched into the sixth inning, putting two runners on with two singles and then getting a strikeout before Luke Weaver entered and forced an inning-ending double play with just one pitch.

“Tonight,” manager Aaron Boone said, “getting us to where he got us to set up the back end of the bullpen was big.”

It’s been a tough year for the 34-year-old Hill, who is the Yankees’ latest bargain-bin contributor, joining a list that includes Ian Hamilton, Michael Tonkin, Weaver and closer Clay Holmes, whose four outs Wednesday gave him his first save since June 9.

After signing a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Chicago White Sox in the offseason, Hill struggled, and the White Sox — the worst team in baseball — cut him with a 5.87 ERA in 27 games on June 18. Two days later, the Yankees signed him to a big-league deal, believing in his funky delivery and hoping that he’d suffered an extreme run of bad luck. (The Yankees are only paying Hill the league minimum with Chicago on the hook for the rest of his salary since he cleared waivers.)

Though Hill immediately struggled, surrendering three runs in his first Yankees appearance on June 20, he’s looked better of late. On Saturday, he pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the middle of a 14-4 win over the Boston Red Sox. Currently, he has a 2.38 ERA in eight appearances.

“I think he’s enjoying it,” Boone said of Hill’s time with the Yankees. “I hope he’s enjoying it. He’s come over and gone through the rough stretch with us. But he’s thrown the ball really, really well for us.”

Stroman called Hill’s delivery “very unique.”

“I don’t think many guys are seeing it (well),” said Stroman, who gave up one earned run in 4 1/3 innings. “An awesome piece to have down there in the bullpen, getting lefties and righties out, coming from the ground with that velocity and that movement. It’s got to be tough.”

The Yankees’ pitching department has over recent years shown that it can have success with other teams’ castoffs. Hamilton was a non-roster invitee last year before he posted a 2.64 ERA in 39 appearances. (He’s currently on the injured list.) The Yankees claimed Tonkin off waivers from the New York Mets in April and he’s had a 1.60 ERA in 25 games. Weaver has become the Yankees’ most trusted reliever outside of Holmes after they claimed him off waivers last year and re-signed him in the offseason. And Holmes was a middling reliever with the Pittsburgh Pirates before the Yankees acquired him for two afterthought prospects in 2021. Holmes has made two All-Star teams with the Yankees. Early Wednesday, The Athletic reported that the Yankees signed reliever Tim Mayza — another funky lefty who has had lots of MLB success — to a minor-league deal after he struggled all season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Hill said it’s been a “hectic” season for him, and that he’s been tweaking his typically sinker-heavy arsenal to include a slider.

“I love it here,” Hill said.

And the Yankees hope that he’s their next success story.

(Photo of Tim Hill: Ray Seebeck / USA Today)





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