Conversation with Rich Hill

Pitcher Rich Hill told me last night that he's heard from a "pretty good amount of teams" that are interested in signing him, but he's still waiting for a major league deal that will return him to a 40-man roster.

Hill estimated that he could make a decision within the next two weeks, and the Orioles remain in the mix. He elected to become a free agent after being outrighted to Triple-A Norfolk, but they're apparently open to re-signing him to a minor league deal.

"Anything is possible," he said. "I'm not ruling out any possibilities right now."

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Hill might extend an invitation to throw for teams and prove that his left arm is sound after undergoing surgery in August to repair a torn labrum.

"I feel just as good or better than I did in 2007," he said, referring to his breakthrough season with the Cubs that was followed by repeated breakdowns. Hill went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 195 innings.

"It's exciting, the idea of going through a whole season and being healthy and contributing to a team," he said.

"It's really good to have a full off-season. Last winter, I pitched in Venezuela after having problems with my back. When my shoulder started bothering me this year, the surgery gave me a chance to have a full off-season and go to the gym every day. Now the ball's coming out of my hand free and easy. I'm pain-free and I have good velocity. It's exciting, no matter where I end up."

Hill, who said he's put on about 15 pounds of muscle, began throwing three weeks ago. He had just finished playing catch in south Boston when he returned my call last night.

"The first week, I'd throw every other day," he said. "It was rough at first, with the scar tissue. But last week, I threw every day and I felt fantastic."

Hill stayed back in extended spring training before joining the Orioles' rotation on May 16. He went 3-3 with a 7.80 ERA in 14 games (13 starts), allowing 68 hits and walking 40 in 57 2/3 innings. The Orioles placed him on the disabled list for a second time on July 29 with an inflamed left shoulder, which ended his season.

"I never saw any of the things coming before, with my back and shoulder. You take it for granted when you're healthy. Now it's a lot more fun to pitch when you feel this good," he said.

"I'm just trying to get something done and know where I'll be in spring training and for the season. I don't know where I'll land, but there are a lot of options out there. I'm still waiting for that invitation to a (40-man) roster. It might not happen, but on my side, it shows my commitment. And teams will see a different guy when I come in to throw.

"If people see the work I've put in and how I'm throwing, they'll see it's worth the risk."

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