Rich Hill trade: Luis Rojas reacts, discusses Mets' plan for LHP acquired from Rays

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Rich Hill navy blue Rays jersey cropped
Rich Hill navy blue Rays jersey cropped

Mets manager Luis Rojas addressed New York's trade for Tampa Bay Rays LHP Rich Hill, a three-player deal, before Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Citi Field.

"Well, we know a lot about Rich Hill, right?" Rojas said with a smile. "I think a lot of people in the game know the name -- a guy that's been around for years now, right? A lot of experience, pitching good baseball, pitching playoff baseball and it's just a great fit. So a great acquisition, and our front office is being diligent. One of our needs right now -- we talked about our starting-pitching need and, I mean, this is a guy that fits right in.

"So I haven't talked to him. We do have people here that have connections with him and have already given me some details, at least, in clubhouse -- like how Rich is. And I'm looking forward to connecting with him and have an idea of when he should be available to start for us. So, yeah. But before that, very excited about the acquisition. I think it's going to help us hugely."

Hill, 41, was 6-4 in 19 starts over 95 1/3 innings as a first-year member of the Rays. As the Mets (50-43) begin a three-game series with the Blue Jays (48-44), perhaps a debut for Hill is in store for the weekend.

"We'll see," Rojas said when asked about Hill as the pitcher for Sunday's game, a 1:10 p.m. start. "I mean, we have needs those days. We have the doubleheader Monday. We have a game Sunday, where we still have a TBA -- knowing we have (Tylor) Megill, and (Taijuan) Walker (Saturday). So we'll have to connect. Like I said, haven't talked to Rich yet. Something that happened as we were arriving here to the stadium and then it became official, so I haven't really connected with him yet. So maybe something that happens this afternoon, later today, hopefully. But let's see. And there's needs in the near future, so I pray that he's in one of those spots that we need."

After a strong start to the 2021 season, Hill has slowed down some. Since June 12, Hill is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in seven starts over 33 1/3 innings, striking out 28 and walking 16 while allowing seven home runs.

"We haven't really -- us here -- broken him down like that, month to month or start to start," Rojas said. "I am aware of the pitch usage and where the stuff is -- like, I did take a look at that -- and we've seen a couple outings here and there where we're probably not playing and there was a Rays game on the television. But we haven't talked about that.

"... I think Trevor May was his teammate (in 2020) there (with the Minnesota Twins from 2014-20) and I heard from the other guys who face him a lot how he is and his demeanor. But similar pitch usage and stuff-wise -- like, where fastball carry and the curveball has been a special pitch for him throughout his career and slider, cutter, the velo divides a little bit. He's got the similar stuff. And I think I advanced (scouted) him a little bit when I was a quality control (coach), too, in '19 -- so when he was with the Dodgers (from 2016-19) -- and just similar, similar stuff. But last month performance -- like, I'm not aware right now."

Through the first two months, from April 3 through June 5, Hill was 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 12 starts, striking out 63 while walking 20 over 62 innings. Hill gives the Mets a versatile option, but Rojas does not currently expect a bullpen role for the southpaw.

"The excitement to have the starting pitcher right now -- like, I can't think of Rich coming out of the 'pen at any point right now," Rojas said. "So first things first, I want to see when he's able to start for us and given some of the length that he provides -- like, this is a guy that can eat innings. He can be very effective, pitch-count-wise, induce contact. He does different things, he knows how to pitch and as a starter. So that's what we're looking forward to right now. So (if) something crazy happens later, I know this guy's a bull and we have different ideas. But, I mean, we're just not there yet. Right now the need is the starter and we got a really good one here."

Ultimately, Hill adds a different look to a starting rotation that currently includes RHPs such as Walker and Marcus Stroman. Meanwhile, ace Jacob deGrom is working toward a return.

"He brings a lot and adds a lot to this group," Rojas said. "We talk every day about how special this group is, how good of a family we are and, I mean, this is a great addition, I think -- a guy that has experience and been on great teams, right? Playoff contenders and I think is just going to bring a lot of experience. We don't have a guy like that here, like, in his profile -- we don't have that veteran, veteran guy that has experience like this and could bring just different stories from different teams and being in the playoffs multiple times. So I think it's just a great addition. This can only make us better right now."

"Age is just a number, I think," Rojas added. "He's a great pitcher and I'm excited for that, and we were just talking about what he's bringing outside of his pitching ability. And ... I think it's going to make the team better, and I think it's going to make us better. It's going to make me a better manager, and then I'm going to learn some things from him. But I don't see the age part being anything different than any of the guys, as far as my relationship with him. Anticipating it (as) he's just going to be one of our pitchers and be a veteran presence. So I just think he's going to be a huge help for everyone here and it should be fun. I'm looking forward to getting to know him -- connect with him, first -- and get to know him and see him here every day, and get some things to work with him directly and probably with also the group that stuff that he can bring here."

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