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Hill may be month away from return

Hill may be month away from return

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ARLINGTON -- Rich Hill threw for the watchful eyes of pitching coach Rick Kranitz Tuesday, giving the Orioles a better idea of his recovery from a strained left elbow. Hill, who has been working out at the team's extended spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., may still be more than a month away from pitching in the Majors.

"I don't think there's a real rush right now, but I really like what I saw of him today," said Kranitz. "I'm not going to put a timetable on him, but it was very encouraging to see him today. There's no question about that."

Kranitz said that Hill has mostly been pitching in intrasquads while in Sarasota and that he may not go out on a Minor League rehab stint until later in the month. The southpaw threw 75 pitches in a bullpen session for Kranitz on Tuesday, flashing some of the stuff that helped him strike out 183 batters in 2007.

"I think the biggest thing about it was his curveball looked like the curveball of old, which was really encouraging for me," said Kranitz, who coached Hill in the Minor Leagues. "I hadn't seen that yet. Until today."

Hill, who was acquired from the Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later, said that he feels ready to go and that he's getting antsy to pitch in a competitive setting. He also said, however, that it's more important for him to make sure he's right before he rejoins the Orioles and risks re-injuring his elbow.

For now, that likely means a month-long rehabilitation stint in the Minor Leagues.

"I think we're just looking for consistency," said Hill. "I know it's just a bullpen or whatever, but just to go out there and be consistent with your fastball, consistent with your curveball, consistent with your changeup, I've been able to do that repeatedly in back-to-back outings now. Everything is coming along really well."

The Orioles will send Hill back to Sarasota to work for the next week, and then they'd like to see him in Baltimore at some point before they decide on his ultimate trajectory.

"What he's going to do is take two days off, then he's going to pitch in a game," said Kranitz. "He'll throw two innings, then he'll get two days off and throw another two innings. I want to get him out there as much as he can, just get him on the mound as much as possible. We're going to re-evaluate after his second outing."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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