Control eluding him, Hill to pitch in Minors game

Melvin confident A's lefty will soon find right arm slot

Control eluding him, Hill to pitch in Minors game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rich Hill's command is still missing after three spring starts, leaving the veteran lefty in search of answers as he attempts to regain the form that convinced A's brass to risk a $6 million contract on him following just four big league starts in 2015.

Hill walked five and allowed as many runs across 29 innings in those four September outings for the Red Sox, after making a pit stop in the independent leagues. He walked six Tuesday in a 6-2 loss against the Rockies, bringing his spring total to 12 in 7 2/3 innings.

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Hill has allowed 13 earned runs in that span -- five in his latest outing -- on 10 hits, two of them home runs. At times Tuesday, he flashed pinpoint control, resultign in swings and misses along the way. But he was mostly pitching without feel for his mechanics, especially struggling with his release point.

He threw just 29 of his 67 pitches for strikes.

"It is three outings in Spring Training, and I don't like using the term, 'Well it is Spring Training,' because you want results to start to get some good momentum going into the season," Hill said. "There are some good things that are going on, and there are some things that need to be worked on, and that's where we're at."

Hill was pleased with his changeup but battled with his control when throwing the breaking ball.

"He's just out of rhythm," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "It looks like he's out ahead of his arm a little bit on some of his breaking balls, that's why they're staying up. He's just searching for the right arm slot. At times, he has it. He's just not consistent with it right now."

Hill will have the opportunity to iron out these issues in a Minor League game this weekend, since the A's don't want him facing their scheduled opponent, the White Sox, on Sunday. The White Sox will open the season in Oakland, and Hill is penciled in as the No. 2 starter behind ace Sonny Gray.

"Sometimes that's good for a guy to be able to go over and work on some things," Melvin said. "He wants to impress his teammates here, and there have been a couple outings now where he hasn't, but he has a track record and pitched really well at the end of last year. My feeling is there's going to be one start where he finds his arm slot and then he'll be off to the races."

"Once you get that good rhythm, timing, tempo, all those things start falling into place," Hill said.

Jane Lee is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.