KANSAS CITY, MILWAUKEE (9-30-2018) / (UPDATED 10-01-2018) -- Palomar product Tim Hill, appearing in the next-to-last game of the season, finished with another 1-2-3 inning in his 70th appearance of his rookie Major League season on Saturday evening.
The former Comet, who got better and better as the season progressed, disposed of the American League Central champion Cleveland Indians on 11 pitches in the seventh inning as Hill's Kansas City Royals went on to win 9-4 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. It was the third time in four late-season appearances against the A.L. Central champs that he handcuffed the Indians out of the bullpen.
He didn't pitch in the Royals' final game on Sunday.
Pitching in 43 percent of Kansas City's 162 games, Hill became the highest-paid rookie (earning $545,000) among all the Palomar products, both pitchers and position players, who have played in the big leagues.
Hill's 70 appearances shattered the Royals' rookie-season appearance record set by the late right-handed submariner Dan Quisenberry. Quisenberry appeared in 32 games in his rookie season of 1979, a club record that stood for 39 years until Hill shattered his mark this season.
Quisenberry, another California community college product (out of Orange Coast College), who passed away in 1998 from cancer, is still remembered as one of the best relievers in baseball history and came out of the bullpen to pitch the Royals to the 1985 World Series championship.
Hill disposed of the Cincinnati Reds on nine pitches in a 1-2-3 sixth inning last Tuesday evening at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati by getting two groundouts, then striking out six-time All-Star Joey Votto in Kansas City's 4-3 win over the Reds.
He came right back on Wednesday evening to get the last two outs in the eighth inning on fly balls, then struck out the leadoff batter in the bottom of the ninth as the Royals beat the Reds again 6-1.
He recorded 42 strikeouts on the season compared to 14 walks over 45 2/3 innings.
All season long Hill specialized as a short relief specialist as a submarine-throwing left-hander who came out of the pen to get an out, or two or three, when the Royals are still in the game.
Hill, who made his Major League debut on the first day of the season, was one of four ex-Comets on Major League opening-day 25-man rosters in March, along with veterans Nick Vincent of the Seattle Mariners, Tyler Saladino of the Chicago White Sox (who since has been sold to the Milwaukee Brewers) and James Hoyt of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros (since then traded to the Indians).
Hill, who saw his streak of 13 straight games after the All-Star break without giving up a run go by the boards on Aug. 17, rebounded the next evening in Chicago when he came on with one out and a runner on base in the seventh inning and struck out the only two batters he faced, Yoan Moncada looking and Yolomer Sanchez swinging, to preserve a 2-1 Royals lead in a 3-1 win over the Sox.
After a vicious successful battle with cancer that sidelined him during his second minor league season (see link above), when he lost 70 pounds to drop from 220 pounds to 150 pounds, Hill made the jump from the Royals' Double-A Northwest Arkansas farm club in 2017 to their big-league team this past March when he won a spot on the 25-man roster to begin the season. He then pitched in KC's opening game.
Hill appeared in 39 games during the first half of the season, actually breaking Quisenberry's Royals full-season club rookie record prior to the All-Star Break.
In addition, the 39 appearances were more than Vincent's entire rookie full-season total (at the time with the Padres with 27 appearances in 2012), Hoyt's entire rookie full-season total with the Astros (22 appearances in 2016) and ex-Comet Marcus Hatley's only season (2 games with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015).
The Royals kept Hill, one of the few bright spots during a rebuilding year, on their Major League roster all season, something virtually unheard of in today's big-league climate in which relievers with options remaining are constantly shuffled back and forth between the Majors and Double-A or Triple A depending on the big-league club's needs.
Saladino's Brewers team defeated the Chicago Cubs 3-1 on Monday at Wrigley Field in a one-game playoff to win the National League Central championship.
Saladino pinch-hit in an 11-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, the final day of the regular season, on Sunday.
Saladino was the 2009 Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year and a community college All-American starring at shortstop at Palomar. He was drafted in the seventh round by the White Sox after his Summit League Player of the Year junior season at Division I Oral Roberts University and was an instant success when he landed in the starting lineup for the White Sox after being called up to the Major Leagues in 2015.
Like Hoyt with the eventual World Series champion Astros last season, Saladino will not be on the Brewers' post-season roster.
The Mariners' Vincent finished his seventh Major League season with career totals of 19-17 record and a 3.18 ERA. His $2.75 million salary for 2018 is the best ever for a former Comet in the Major Leagues. The former Palomar and Long Beach State star began his big-league career with the Padres.
Hoyt, whose birthday was Sunday, began the season with a $567,000 projected salary, pitched only one-third of an inning for the Astros this season before an injury landed him on the disabled list. When he came off the D.L. the Astros optioned him to Fresno of the Pacific Coast League, where he had led all Triple A pitchers in saves before he made Houston's Major League roster. After the trade to Cleveland, he was sent to the Indians' Triple-A club at Columbus, Ohio.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Hoyt originally came to Palomar from Boise, Idaho and later moved on to Centenary College of Louisiana, which at the time was a Division I school. He owns a 4.40 career Major League ERA with 94 strikeouts for 71 2/3 innings pitched, the first 72 1/3 innings with the Astros from 2016 through last season. He earned a World Series championship ring for the 2017 Astros although he did not pitch in the post-season.