Hill debuts splitter in Pirates' loss to Giants

Pirates announce first four signees of Draft class

July 15th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- , 43, is the oldest active player in Major League Baseball. With a quality start on Friday -- six innings, three runs -- he’s now appeared in 369 career games across 19 seasons. He has expertise. He has experience. He’s not above innovation.

Hill debuted a splitter in the Pirates’ 6-4 loss to the Giants at PNC Park, the first time in his career that he’s thrown the pitch.

“It’s a game of adjustments or continuously trying to get better,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve been around. I think realizing that there’s room to grow, [and] continue to work on things that I can get better at, that was certainly something that I felt could be added into the pitch mix.”

It’s unclear exactly how many splitters Hill threw on Friday. Baseball Savant did not classify any of the six pitches that Hill threw -- curveball, cutter, four-seam fastball, changeup, sinker, sweeper -- as a splitter. That said, Hill noted that PNC Park’s jumbotron classified his splitters as sinkers, a pitch that Hill had thrown less than 3 percent of the time this season.

Hill had played around with a splitter in the past, but never to the degree that he would use it in a game. He decided to add the splitter over the All-Star break because he believed the pitch would play well off his four-seam fastball. Hill said that he was initially putting one of his fingers on the ball’s seam, but pitching coach Oscar Marin suggested that Hill move his finger off the seam if he wanted to generate more depth.

Hill assessed that roughly 15 percent to 18 percent of the 91 pitches he threw against the Giants were splitters. If Hill’s “sinkers” were, indeed, splitters, then the southpaw had one whiff, a foul ball, two balls and four called strikes with the pitch in its debut.

“It was just a different grip that [Marin] showed me, and it really clicked for me,” Hill said. “Between the couple days of throwing it and getting closer to feeling where I should be with it, his advice helped tremendously.”

Pirates announce first four signees of Draft class
The Pirates announced that shortstop Mitch Jebb (second round), right-hander Carlson Reed (fourth round), right-hander Patrick Reilly (fifth round) and right-hander Landon Tomkins have signed with the team, the first four members of Pittsburgh’s 2023 Draft class to sign with the club.

“It’s something you’ve always dreamed about since you were a kid,” Jebb said. “When you get that call, it’s something that’s really special that you get to enjoy with your family. It was a really good time and I’m excited to be a Pirate.”

Added Reilly, “I’d say it was pretty surreal. I was lucky enough to have all my family around me -- my parents and my siblings. When you get that call, it takes some time to sink in. Now that we’re here and together and we’ve had this opportunity, it’s really starting to feel real. It is a dream come true.”

Per MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, Jebb signed for $1.65 million (slot value of $2,045,900 million); Reed signed for $600,000 (slot value of $646,900); and Reilly signed for $455,600 (full slot value).

The Pirates still have 17 players left to sign prior to the deadline on July 25 at 5 p.m. ET, a list headlined by first overall selection Paul Skenes.