Tim Hill Keeps Defying The Odds

The Royals’ media guide has one succinct line about lefthander Tim Hill’s 2015 season: “Did not pitch due to injury.”

It was not an injury, but cancer that caused Hill to miss the season.

Hill was a draft afterthought in 2014 as a 32nd-round reliever out of Bacone College, an NAIA school in Muskogee, Okla., with an enrollment of fewer than 1,000. He first gained the Royals’ attention in his pro debut by recording a 1.64 ERA with 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 20 appearances, mostly at low Class A Lexington.

Hill said he felt a bit off at spring training the following year. “I didn’t really think too much of it,” he said of 2015, “(but) on a routine blood test they found my hemoglobin was about half what it should have been. They said, ‘There’s definitely a problem. We want to find out what it is.’ “

Hill said his father died of colon cancer.

“So through testing, (the doctors) did a colonoscopy and sure enough they found a tumor,” Hill said. “It was Stage 3, so it could have been (caught) earlier but also could have been later. I’m just thankful they caught it when they did and it wasn’t worse than it actually was.

“That whole year, 2015, was pretty tough. I had surgery and about eight months of chemotherapy . . . The Royals were very supportive.”

Hill returned to spring training in 2016, thankful just to get through the ordeal, he said. Now 28, he is checked routinely for cancer with multiple blood tests per year and annual CT Scans and colonoscopies.

Hill started slowly in 2017 but logged a 2.03 ERA and held opponents to a .223 average in his final 26 outings at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

The Royals added Hill to their 40-man roster last November. He pitched his way onto the Opening Day big league roster this year by giving up just four hits and striking out seven in seven spring innings.

Hill’s sidearm delivery gives hitters fits. “I cannot really throw the ball overhand,” he said.

How long has he thrown sidearm? “Forever,” he said.

>> The Royals signed Tarik El-Abour, a 25-year-old outfielder with autism, to a minor league contract. He was the 2016 rookie of the year in the independent Empire League after going undrafted out of Bristol University in Anaheim. He is believed to be the first player with autism to play in affiliated baseball.

>> High Class A Wilmington outfielder Rudy Martin blazed to the top of the minor league leaderboard with 13 stolen bases through 13 games.

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