Despite risk, Hill determined to play season

July 14th, 2020

KANSAS CITY -- Royals left-hander decided a while back there was no way he would opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns surrounding COVID-19.

Of course, Hill had every reason to be concerned. Five years ago he survived Stage 3 colon cancer. Hill has another condition to contend with that would make him high risk: He has Lynch syndrome, an inherited disorder that increases the risk of many types of cancer, especially colon cancer.

Now, at 10 days into camp, Hill, 30, hasn’t questioned his decision to play. And that’s even after several Royals, including catchers Salvador Perez and Cam Gallagher, have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I still stick by my decision,” Hill said. “There has been some concerns with people testing positive, but I still feel like I made the right decision. I want to play.”

Royals manager Mike Matheny knew it could be a difficult choice for Hill.

“It is truly amazing what he’s been through at so young an age,” Matheny said. “We knew he was going to be in a certain tier [for risk]. It just shows you how much he loves this organization, his teammates. We’ll do everything we can to keep him protected. The onus is on us, too.”

Hill said he feels especially safe with all the protocols the Royals and MLB have put into place.

“As far as the procedures the Royals are taking, it makes me comfortable,” Hill said. “They want to make sure we’re safe. I think they’re doing a great job at what they’re doing. I think everyone is learning as we go.”

A healthy and strong Hill can be a formidable weapon for the Royals. His sidearm, almost submarine, delivery provides the Royals’ bullpen a unique option and look, especially against lefties.

“He’s got something different, no doubt about it,” Matheny said. “Righties don’t necessarily enjoy facing him, either. That’s going to be a big part of our game, to match up.

“It’s going to be a new normal for us. Guys like Tim Hill are going to have figure out righties because they will throw as many at him as they can, especially with the three-batter minimum.”

But Matheny is looking forward to utilizing Hill’s strengths.

“He looks strong and he has improved his timing on his breaking ball,” Matheny said. “Physically, he’s in a good place, and that’s the key for him -- feeling strong out there.”