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Defending The Indefensible

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I'm actually going to defend Rich Hill's pitching performance in last night's 10-2 Cub loss to the Rockies.

Why am I doing this? You're thinking, "Al's the guy who's been saying Hill is a AAAA player all along, isn't this more evidence?"

Part of the problem is Coors Field. Pitchers like Hill, who live and die with curveballs, are going to have trouble throwing in the thin air of Denver. The late Darryl Kile, whose curve was amazing when he was on, ill-advisedly signed a free-agent contract with the Rockies and had the two worst years of his career there. (I use the words "ill-advisedly", well, advisedly -- Kile did make $14 million pitching for Colorado.)

Curveballs just don't break at mile-high altitude the way they do at sea level, or at the 560-foot altitude of Wrigley Field. Hill simply couldn't get his pitches to work the way they had in his previous two starts -- and that doesn't mean he wasn't attempting to make adjustments. He walked five, and three of those walks scored, and when he stopped walking people in the fifth inning, his pitches were still up -- that's when Garrett Atkins hit a three-run homer, and that was it for Hill. His next start should be Wednesday in Houston -- that's not exactly the best place for a lefthanded starter, either, but at least it won't be at 5,280 feet above sea level.

It wasn't just Hill, either -- none of the Cub pitchers threw very well last night, and I consider myself fortunate that I had to go to sleep for work, missing the last four innings and thus missing two more Colorado homers. So much for the humidor deadening the ball and keeping the scoring down in Denver.

I was interested to read these comments at cubs.com from Juan Pierre, who started his career with the Rockies:

And heading into free agency this offseason, Pierre wasn't about to dismiss the idea that he could return if all the cards lined up just right.

"I'll be a free agent, so we'll just wait and see," Pierre said. "I loved hitting here. Everybody talked about how much this place helped the power hitters, but it helped me, too, because the outfield is so huge. More hits fall in because the outfielders play farther back, and there is so much room in the gaps.

"I'm feeling the other end of that now at Wrigley, where the outfield is so small that the outfielders shrink the field on me [by playing in close and taking away hits]. The [Wrigley] outfield is about half the size of this one [at Coors Field]."

Well then. Sounds like Pierre wants out of Chicago, doesn't it? There wasn't any comparable note on the Rockies' website, and this Denver Post article indicates that the Rockies might consider rookie Ryan Spilborghs, who had two doubles last night, or free agents Torii Hunter or Jim Edmonds, for their CF trouble spot next year.

So the answer is, who knows? Just another thing for Team Turmoil to worry about.

Angel Guzman will be recalled from Iowa to start tonight; Juan Mateo will be sent down, though it wasn't clear whether Mateo will be sent to Iowa or back to West Tenn. Guzman's thrown better since he returned to Triple-A, particularly his BB/K ratio (24 BB, 77 K in 75.2 IP).

Finally -- and this is probably the item in this post that will generate more comments than anything else -- Mark Prior is going to have his shoulder examined yet again. He didn't accompany the club from Milwaukee to Denver, instead returning to Chicago.

I just wish they'd tell us what's really going on; if Prior needs surgery, tell us. If he changed his motion because of last year's elbow injury, and thus hurt his shouder, tell us. If he needs to be shut down for the rest of the year, just tell us.