(via Tampa Bay Rays Communications) - The Tampa Bay Rays have signed free agent left-handed pitcher Rich Hill and free agent right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake to one-year contracts for the 2021 season. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-handed pitcher Colin Poche (recovery from Tommy John surgery) was placed on the 60-day injured list.
Hill, 40, opened the 2020 season in the Minnesota Twins rotation as a result of the delayed season from the COVID-19 pandemic. He entered spring training recovering from left elbow surgery that repaired a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament. He went 2-2 with a 3.03 ERA (38.2-IP, 13-ER) in eight starts for the Twins and allowed two runs (or fewer) in seven of eight starts, including his last six. He missed time from July 31–August 18 while on the 10-day injured list for left shoulder inflammation. He did not appear in a postseason game as the Twins were swept in the Wild Card Series.
Hill ended the 2020 season as baseball’s oldest active pitcher. If he appears in a game for the Rays on May 24 or later, he would become the oldest player in club history. That distinction is currently held by Wade Boggs, who appeared in his last game at 41 years, 73 days. Since signing with the Boston Red Sox as a 35-year-old following a stint in independent ball in 2015, he is 43-22 with a 2.92 ERA (505-IP, 164-ER) in 95 appearances (94 starts) in the majors. Since 2016, he ranks among major league leaders (min. 400 IP) in ERA (3.01, eighth), WHIP (1.09, ninth) and opponents’ avg. (.208, fourth).
Hill holds a 3.06 ERA (53-IP, 18-ER) over 13 career postseason appearances (12 starts) and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the National League pennant in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
Hill has spent parts of 16 seasons in the majors with nine different teams and is 67-44 with a 3.79 ERA (976-IP, 411-ER) in 292 career appearances (164 starts). He was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 Amateur Draft out of the University of Michigan. The year prior, he was taken by the Los Angeles Angels as a draft-eligible sophomore but opted to return to Michigan. He was selected by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school but did not sign.
Drake, 34, made the Rays Opening Day roster in 2020 but was limited to 11 appearances due to an August 9–September 14 stint on the injured list for right biceps tendinitis. He went 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA (11-IP, 7-ER) and two saves, both coming on the season-opening five-game homestand. He was on the postseason roster for the American League Wild Card Series against the Toronto Blue Jays (did not pitch) and AL Division Series against the New York Yankees. His only postseason appearance came in Game 1 vs. New York, a scoreless 8th inning. He was replaced on the postseason roster by right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards prior to Game 4 of the Division Series due to a right flexor tendon strain.
Drake has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Rays and is 5-4 with a 3.63 ERA (67-IP, 27-ER) in 61 appearances. Since joining the Rays, he has held lefties to a .156 avg. (19-for-122) with two home runs, while righties have hit .211 (24-for-114) with nine homers. He has spent parts of the last six seasons in the majors and is 10-10 with a 4.27 ERA (204.1-IP, 97-ER) in 196 career appearances. In 2018, he pitched in the majors for the Milwaukee Brewers, Cleveland Indians, Angels, Blue Jays and Twins, becoming the first player in major league history to pitch for five different teams in one season. He was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 43rd round of the 2008 Amateur Draft out of the United States Naval Academy.
Photo Courtesy Of Getty Images