The chance to pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays again came as a surprise to Shawn Hill.
He had just pitched for Canada in a victory over Great Britain in Germany on Sept. 21 in the qualifying tournament for the 2013 World Baseball Classic and he came to Toronto to be the best man at a wedding when the Blue Jays called.
So instead of rejoining Canada in Germany after the wedding, the Georgetown, Ont., native joined the Blue Jays in Baltimore.
On Saturday he pitched in relief after starter Ricky Romero went down with an injury at the end of the third inning and earned the win as Toronto defeated the New York Yankees 3-2 at Rogers Centre.
“It was fun, it was the first time ever I’ve thrown in relief, minor-leagues, big-leagues, anything so I didn’t know what to expect out of myself, whether I’d be too amped up, whether I’d be able to get ready, that kind of thing,” the 31-year-old right-hander said. “I was fairly calm. I talked to (bullpen coach) Pete Walker the day before and just told him it’s actually kind of odd but I was actually more nervous over in Germany pitching against Great Britain I am here.”
Hill, who pitched for the Blue Jays briefly in 2010, did not pitch last year because of elbow pain that had bothered him for several years.
It finally was diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome and surgery near the collar bone area, removal of the first rib and part of a scalene muscle freed up the radial nerve and allowed for proper blood flow to his arm when he pitched. The pain alleviated, he resumed pitching this season with York of the independent Atlantic League.
The Blue Jays signed him to pitch for their triple-A team at Las Vegas where he went 9-2 with a 4.52 earned-run average in 15 starts.
When the season ended for Las Vegas he concentrated on pitching for Canada.
“I assumed that I wasn’t coming here at all,” he said.
Because he did not pitch last year he said he is “hitting a wall” so he felt that he did not have his best stuff against the Yankees.
It was enough to get him through three hitless, runless innings with two walks and his first major-league win since Sept. 23, 2010, a victory over Seattle when he was with Toronto.
“This is more of a surprise than anything, so I’ll just take the next couple of days in stride,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to next year as far as getting back 100 per cent healthy and see where that takes me.”
Saturday’s outing was his 45th major-league appearance and the 10th win for Hill who also has pitched for Montreal, Washington and San Diego.
“He’s a veteran guy, he’s obviously been here before,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “He’s got the ability to put the ball on the ground and induce the ground-ball double play. Ten days ago he’s pitching over in Germany for Team Canada and yet today he’s on the mound against the New York Yankees.
“So it’s got its own side story in that. But very good sinker, not overpowering stuff, he’s under control out there and knows what he’s doing. I know he’s had some physical ailments in the past but very much under control, throws strikes and uses his infield defence.”
Hill said pitching without pain is “quite a treat.”
“I’ve started to get kind of tired as the end of the year,” he said. “I didn’t pitch last year at all and I’m up to about 130 innings now. So I just started to kind of hit a wall in that sense but the pain that I had before is gone finally. I’m now over the shock of May and June when I was coming back. It took me a while to get over [wondering] is it really gone, is it going to show back up? Now it’s an afterthought.”
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