The path that leads to playing Major League Baseball can be quite winding and treacherous, as both of tonight's starting pitchers (and former Cubs prospects) could probably tell you, although for very different reasons.
Despite being one year younger than Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre reached the Major Leagues two years earlier. Mitre enrolled in San Diego City College in 1999 and was taken in the 7th round of the 2001 Draft by the Cubs. He was the second player in the organization to reach the Big Leagues out of that draft, behind only the highly touted Mark Prior. He made two starts and a relief appearance in 2003, after being called up from Double-A West Tennessee and actually began the 2004 season on the 25 man roster before being sent down to Triple-A Iowa.
Hill, meanwhile, attended the University of Michigan and was chosen in the 4th round of the 2002 Draft, also by the Cubbies. A left-hander born in the Boston area, Hill was always known for his devastating curveball and gaudy strikeout rates, boasting double digit K/9 ratios at every level of minor league ball before being called up to the Bigs in 2005.
The two pitchers were briefly teammates on the '05 Iowa Cubs, when Mitre was being shuttled between Chicago and the farm team to fill in gaps in the rotation and Hill was a highly regarded prospect, striking out 190 batters in 130 2/3 innings between A, AA and AAA that year.
The following offseason, Mitre was part of a package sent to the Marlins, along with Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto, in exchange Juan Pierre who had only one year left on his contract. Mitre made decent contributions to the Marlins, but both Nolasco and Pinto have outperformed expectations and became solid contributors at various times.
Hill spent the 2006 season between AAA and the Majors, throwing 95 innings to a 4.17 ERA, but seemed to truly break out in '07. Over 195 innings, he struck out 183 and had a WHIP of 1.195, compiling an 11-8 record. He began the 2008 season with the team, but after walking 18 batters in 19 2/3 innings, he was sent back to Iowa. Rich never made another appearance with the Cubs and was finally traded to Baltimore last offseason for the ever ubiquitous "player to be named later".
Mitre's issues can be traced back to one major injury, which lead to Tommy John surgery last year, after which he was released by the Marlins. On the other hand, Hill blames his struggles on a host of smaller things:
It's been incredibly frustrating. It just seems like I had all of my injuries all at once and there were little things. There were no tears or problems that required back surgery but just little things that messed with my delivery and my mechanics. I've also made some adjustments.
Mitre had his surgery just over one year ago, but has seemingly made a quick recovery. He's needed only 9 starts to ascend from Trenton to the Bronx. The sinkerballer issues few walks and doesn't collect many strikeouts either, but has had better results than ever since coming aboard with the Yanks.
The same can't be said for Hill, who has had a rough go thus far with the O's. He's walked 33 while striking out 43 in 52 1/3 innings (11 starts) leading to an ugly 7.22 ERA. His most recent start was solid, however, lasting 6 innings, giving up two runs and walking only one batter. Hill has never faced anyone in the current Yankee line-up.
Mitre hasn't pitched in the Big Leagues since 2007, and has never faced the Orioles. So it would seem like a good opportunity for each climb the hill and get a fresh start.
To keeping silence I resigned,
My friends would think I was a nut,
Turning water into wine,
Open doors would soon be shut.
So I went from day to day,
Though my life was in a rut,
'til I thought of what I'd say,
Which connection I should cut.