Spokane Indians starting pitcher David Hill threw just 32 pitches Thursday and recorded four outs.
That he threw any at all is a testament to dedication and perseverance.
Hill, a 2015 fourth-round pick of the Colorado Rockies out of University of San Diego, was making his first appearance since 2018 in his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“It felt like it had been a while, for sure,” Hill said Thursday. “Kind of a blur but just excited to be back out there.”
He knew it was going to be a short outing.
“If I had my way, I would have gotten nine tonight,” he said. “No, I knew it was going to be two (innings) or I had a pitch count.”
The nearly 27-year old righty didn’t mind admitting he was nervous.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Hill said. “I mean, I’m an older guy so you wouldn’t think to be nervous but I don’t try to hide it. I mean, that’s the fun part of it, right? I still feel like a kid playing.
“But oh, I was nervous. It was tough to eat and all of that, so that’s part of it though.”
But that wasn’t his first career-threatening injury.
In 2016, he underwent neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery to relieve compression of the nerves below the neck.
“The symptoms go back a long time,” he said. “And I really struggled to get back from that. Thank the good Lord bringing me back, he put some good people in my life.”
Hill missed all of the 2017 season. There was a point for six months he couldn’t move his arm.
“There was a time I didn’t know I was gonna be able to come back from that,” he said. “I was just trying to get back to a normal life.”
Eventually he felt good enough to start the comeback.
“I came back in 2018 and I said, “Hey, I can pitch,” and they’re like, “Are you sure?’”
He was assigned to High-A Lancaster at the start of the 2018 season, but only made it through seven games before injury struck again.
“I had some good starts,” he said. “And then I threw a curveball and my arm completely locked up.”
The team decided the best course of action was a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection and rest.
Fast-forward to 2019 spring training, and Hill was raring to go again.
“I felt very good. I felt great,” he said. “I was throwing bullpens good.”
But once he tried to mix the breaking ball in, disaster struck again.
“As soon as I started throwing the curveball again, my arm started locking up, and then it popped – a couple times.”
Hill had ligament replacement surgery on April 2, 2019, which wiped out that season, and the pandemic took care of 2020.
“I think this was close to 1,000 days since I had pitched in game,” he said. “And it felt like it.”
The Indians didn’t end up winning the game, but it was a personal victory for Hill.
“It’s more than just about baseball,” he said. “It’s been a grind for me. I mean, it means a lot. If I would have told you that I’d still be in High-A in 2021 when I signed back in 2015 and knew the journey that I was going to sign up for, I’d probably tell you I was done with baseball.
“But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met some great people. God’s been very good to me. So yeah, it means a lot. It means a whole lot.”
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