Royals find a bullpen lefty in Lloyd

By Will Kimmey

July 28, 2003

The Royals have been searching for a lefthander for their bullpen all season, as southpaws have thrown just 16 relief innings for Kansas City. In a 24-hour span, the Royals added two lefties to the bullpen. First, Jeremy Affeldt was moved to a relief role Sunday in order to strengthen the pen and to help him overcome chronic blister problems. On Monday, they acquired veteran setup man Graeme Lloyd from the Mets for hard-throwing righthander Jeremy Hill.

Counting previous trades for Curtis Leskanic and Gookie Dawkins, it marked general manager Allard Baird’s third deal this month. It likely won’t be his last as the surprising American League Central leaders continue to shop for an extra bat and another pitcher for the stretch drive.

A 36-year-old Australian, Lloyd signed a one-year $650,000 contract with the Mets during the offseason, and can make an additional $250,000 in incentives. New York will pay all of his remaining salary except for the prorated minimum. At 6-foot-7, Lloyd uses his high arm slot and downhill plane to change a hitter’s eye level. His stuff is ordinary, as he has a high-80s fastball, a cutter, a loopy curveball and a changeup. He has gone 1-2, 3.31 in 36 games this year, with a 17-7 strikeout-walk ratio and .281 opponent average (.222 versus lefthanders) in 35 innings. In 552 career appearances, he has a 30-34, 3.87 record and 17 saves.

The Royals drafted Hill as a catcher out of a Dallas high school in 1996’s sixth round. After he hit .229-14-123 in 368 minors league games, Kansas City decided to try him on the mound because of his tremendous arm strength. When he hit 95 mph, the conversion became permanent. Hill, 25, has a fastball that peaks at 99 mph, but he has struggled to add a breaking pitch (first a curveball and now a slider) and to maintain a consistent delivery. In spring training, he was a candidate to make the big league bullpen and a dark horse for the closer’s role. But he exhibited poor control and began the year at Triple-A Omaha. He spent 10 days with the Royals in April, working just one inning, and has a 0-1, 3.48 in 11 big league outings over the last two years. Demoted to Double-A Wichita on July 21, Hill has gone 1-3, 7.44 with one save in 28 games between the two stops. In 42 innings, he has a poor 44-45 K-BB ratio and opponents have hit .264 off him.