Cubs demote Hill to minors

Updated: May 3, 2008, 4:15 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs left-hander Rich Hill was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Saturday less than a day after he walked four and recorded just two outs in a start against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hill is 1-0 with a 4.12 ERA in five starts this season but has walked 18 in 19 2-3 innings. Both Hill and manager Lou Piniella expect he'll be back in the rotation soon.

"I haven't been right since the beginning of spring training, so I'll go down there and work on what needs to be worked on," Hill said. "It's something that's not easy to do, obviously, but you go down there and you work on things that need to be worked on and take it not as a demotion but to get better. Not to stay down there."

Chicago recalled right-hander Sean Gallagher from its top farm club, and Jon Lieber will take Hill's spot in the rotation. Lieber, the Cubs' last 20-game winner in 2002, tossed 3 2-3 scoreless innings in Chicago's 5-3, 11-inning loss Friday night. He will start Wednesday at Cincinnati.

Piniella said Hill needs to clear his mind.

"He's worrying a lot and he needs to relax and just go pitch," Piniella said. "I think he'll go down to Iowa and get a few starts and I think you'll see him come back up."

Cubs slugger Aramis Ramirez was out of the starting lineup for the second game of the weekend series against St. Louis. He was hit by a pitch just above his left wrist on Friday, and the team was hopeful he could return on Sunday.

"Ramirez has got a pretty good welt right above his wrist and it's really, really sore and swollen," Piniella said. "Let's hope he's ready tomorrow night."

Kosuke Fukudome, normally the fifth-place hitter, moved up to Ramirez's cleanup slot for the first time. Piniella, who likened Fukudome's skills to that of a No. 2 hitter on Friday, said it would be just a temporary move. Mark DeRosa started in place of Ramirez at third base.

Hill went 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 32 starts in 2007 with 63 walks in 195 innings. He blamed arm slot for his problems this season, saying he's thrown more from a three-quarters angle than in the past when he came over the top.

Piniella said it was a big surprise to see Hill struggle so much. He had thought Hill, the Cubs' No. 4 starter, was ready to compete for a higher spot in the rotation.

"That's the type of ability I think he has," Piniella said.

Piniella chose Lieber instead of Sean Marshall because he is better conditioned for starting duty. He said Marshall would get more long relief duty in the near future with a second bullpen left-hander, Scott Eyre, due to return from the 15-day disabled list from elbow inflammation in the next several days.

The 22-year-old Gallagher was 2-2 with a 3.10 ERA in five starts for Iowa.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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