Since coming back to Triple-A Iowa, though, he has once again flashed some of the familiar upside that has endeared him so well to coaches and Cubs officials in the past. He has allowed only three runs in his last three starts, totaling 30 strikeouts to three walks for a combined 2.31 ERA in eight Iowa outings.
We met up with Hill in the visitor's clubhouse this week in New Orleans and he took a few moments to visit with us as always.
Inside The Ivy: Rich, it just seems like you're more comfortable and confident with your stuff here in Triple-A as opposed to the big leagues. Is that your read on it as well?
Rich Hill: Yeah, I've been noticing that – that is, the transition from going up to the big leagues and coming back down and pitching like I know I can pitch as opposed to what I was doing up there. Up there, you don't let it go. You either don't pitch to your strengths or you're too concerned with this or that.
Inside The Ivy: A lot of your struggles there can be attributed to you being less aggressive as opposed to down here. Without trying to imply anything, had Larry Rothschild encouraged you to nibble more with your pitches?
Rich Hill: No, it doesn't have anything to do with the pitching coach. It comes down to myself, and being able to believe in myself up there and execute my pitches. That's the only difference.
Rich Hill: Yeah, you do a little. Sure, it runs through your head. I just have to keep pitching down here. I'm pitching here at the moment and if I get called back up, I get called back up. Whatever happens happens.
Inside The Ivy: You struck out 14 in your second start back from Chicago. What have you done differently since being sent back here and what do you have to do to get back to the majors?
Rich Hill: I think the biggest thing is just going back to my game, being aggressive and attacking hitters. I realize it's been back and forth. You struggle up there, then you come back here and you dominate. Eventually, it's all going to come together up there.
Inside The Ivy: Ozzie Guillen took a verbal swing at you after the brawl last month and said quote, "Tell that Triple-A [bleep] to shut the [bleep] up. Tell him to start throwing strikes or he's going to get Dusty fired." Do you even dignify those comments with a response?
Rich Hill: Yeah, whatever ... you know? Words were said from him that weren't professional, but that's fine. If that's the way it's going to be then so be it. He's made a name for himself all on his own, no thanks to me.
Inside The Ivy: Being in the middle of that melee, what was going through your head?
Rich Hill: It just happened so quickly and it only lasted a few seconds. It wasn't long before everyone got broken up. I didn't really have time to react or to see what was developing. I was going after the ball when Michael (Barrett) hit A.J. (Pierzynski) and I turned around and then next thing you know, their whole dugout is coming toward you.
Inside The Ivy: And you said afterward that you thought Pierzynski was being unprofessional. Do you still say that?
Rich Hill: I think that sometimes you say things in the heat of the moment and people don't agree with you. I was just backing up my guy out there and working to protect my players. The guys you play with, that's just the way it is. If I was on the White Sox, I'd be saying the same thing.
Inside The Ivy: Was this the first real brawl you'd ever been involved in?
Rich Hill: Yes, it was.
Inside The Ivy: Being around the club as you were after the incident took place, do you expect to see this boil over at Wrigley when the two teams meet again?
Rich Hill: Sure I could see it happening, yeah. We'll see. Nothing happened the next day, and it was interesting to see what might happen then.
Inside The Ivy: With Barrett looking at a suspension, Geovany Soto seems to be the front-runner to go up to Chicago. Is Geo ready for that?
Rich Hill: Absolutely. He's been doing a great job here. He'd been hitting the ball well and is calling some great games.
Inside The Ivy: A pleasure as always, Rich.
Rich Hill: Thanks, Steve.