Extent of Hill's injury surprises Orioles
Left-hander says he has torn labrum, placed on DL
BALTIMORE -- Rich Hill revealed Wednesday that he's been pitching through a torn labrum in his left shoulder, an injury that will send him to the disabled list and could end his season.
Hill said the tear was diagnosed before he was traded to the Orioles, a piece of news that was a surprise to Baltimore's front office.
Andy MacPhail, president of baseball operations, said Hill passed his physical examination during Spring Training and that the Orioles didn't think they were doing anything to endanger his arm. Now, Hill will undergo an arthrogram to determine whether he needs corrective surgery to fix his shoulder.
"Had we thought for a minute there was any physical issues, he wouldn't have pitched," said MacPhail. "He would've told us he really shouldn't pitch, but our medical staff is pretty careful about not using guys who don't think they can go. Let's get the results of the [arthrogram] and see if there's any change from his past ones."
Hill, who was acquired from the Cubs for a nominal cash transaction over the winter, pitched to a 3-3 record and a 7.80 ERA through his first 14 appearances with the Orioles. Baltimore appeared set to release him to make room for Chris Tillman's promotion, but Hill's injury allowed the club to push him to the 15-day disabled list.
Now, Hill has to make a key decision that could impact the rest of his career. The southpaw could either undergo a strengthening program to work on the muscles around his labrum or he could opt for an operation, which would keep him out for a year or more. Hill expects to make his decision after consulting an orthopedic specialist.
"We did a great job as far as keeping the pain to a minimum in the training room," said Hill. "It just becomes a thing where it feels good and you get heated up between warming up before the game and getting ready to go out there before the first inning. But after you come in and you take a seat and it kind of cools down, that's when it starts to fire up again -- when you go back out there the second time. But we did a good job managing the pain."
Hill, who missed time at the beginning of the season to deal with a case of tendinitis in his left elbow, said the labrum tear was revealed shortly after the New Year in an arthrogram by the Cubs' physicians. The left-hander tried to work through the injury, though, and said that in retrospect he considered it a selfish decision.
"Hurting the ballclub is the one thing, and I think that's something I'm sensitive to," he said. "There's 24 other guys in this locker room that go out there and bust their tails every night to go out there and perform and put wins on the board. This hasn't been the best of seasons for the Baltimore Orioles. ... I love to go out there and pitch, and it's something I have a passion for, obviously, as a professional job. But to go out there and pitch without being 100 percent is something I consider a little selfish, [as far as] going out there for yourself."
Hill went on to say that he'd likely done "more harm than good" to the pitching staff in terms of exposing the relievers to more innings than they would've worked under other circumstances. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley didn't dispute that conclusion, saying only that he wouldn't intentionally put Hill's health in jeopardy.
"We never would've sent him out there if we knew he wasn't fit," Trembley said. "The decision was made by him to pitch."
"This is a condition that other pitchers have pitched with," added MacPhail. "They just have to pitch to their own tolerance. If it bothers them, they shouldn't pitch. But some guys have this and have done well."
Labrum tears have proven to be one of the most difficult challenges facing modern-day sports medicine, and the surgical procedure used for it has not reached the same level of success as ligament replacement surgery in the elbow. Hill likely will opt to strengthen his shoulder, with the surgery standing as a last resort.
For now, though, the veteran has decided to keep all his options open until after he sees a doctor.
"It's kind of something that has been generating over time, just because of the amount of innings," Hill said."It's just something that happens. It's something you have to deal with, [and I'm] looking forward to getting it fixed, whichever way we decide to go about it. ... Either surgery or rehab, that's up to me which road we're gonna go."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.