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Cards sign Hill to Minor League deal

Rich Hill feature

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals made an intriguing but also telling move on Tuesday when they announced the signing of left-hander Rich Hill to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

Hill will compete for the vacant fifth spot in the St. Louis starting rotation, along with in-house candidates including Jaime Garcia and Kyle McClellan among others. His addition may mean that the Cardinals are done adding candidates for the rotation, and may instead look to spend any remaining free-agent dollars on a hitter and/or a relief pitcher.

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"All along, I've stated that we want to add some depth for the rotation, and [Hill] is someone that we think has some upside," general manager John Mozeliak said. "We believe he's healthy, and he's looking for an opportunity to compete for a starting job."

Hill, who will turn 30 in March, pitched for the Orioles in 2009. He spent the first four years of his big league career with the Cubs, where he established himself as one of the more promising young lefties around. Hill went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and 183 strikeouts for Chicago in 2007. But his control deserted him in '08, as he walked 62 batters in 67 1/3 innings between the Majors and Minors.

Those difficulties continued into 2009, before he shut it down for the year due to a torn labrum. Hill underwent left shoulder surgery in August.

Mozeliak said that Hill is recovered from the surgery and is already throwing off a mound.

Hill was one of 17 non-roster invitees to Spring Training that the Redbirds announced on Tuesday. The only other NRIs who did not spend 2009 with the Cardinals organization are knuckleballer Charlie Zink and infielder Ruben Gotay.

Also among the invitees: pitchers Lance Lynn, Evan MacLane, Pete Parise, Oneli Perez, Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez, catchers Tony Cruz, Charlie Cutler, Steven Hill and Robert Stock, infielders Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma and Donovan Solano and outfielder Tyler Henley.

Barring further acquisitions, the club will have 55 players in Major League camp -- 38 roster players and 17 non-roster. Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 17, while infielders and outfielders report on Feb. 22.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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