When left-hander Arthur Rhodes worked out for Orioles officials at Camden Yards in January 2013, he was attempting a comeback that would have made him the oldest player in club history at 43 years and almost six months.
They didn’t sign him.
The honor still belongs to catcher Rick Dempsey, the 1983 World Series Most Valuable Player who appeared in his last game with the Orioles on Sept. 27, 1992, two weeks after celebrating his 43rd birthday. Reliever Jesse Orosco was 42 years and 160 days when he threw his last pitch for the club in 1999. Dizzy Trout is third on the list, Jim Thome fourth and Tim Raines fifth, all of them at age 42-plus.
Lefty Jamie Moyer would have shattered the record in 2012 after the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal at age 49. He entered Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation but didn’t make it back to the majors.
This trip down memory lane is fueled by the Orioles’ reported interest in lefty Rich Hill, who pitched for them in 2009 – one of the 11 clubs on his resume. He turns 43 on March 11.
Dempsey can feel Hill wheezing down his neck.
I kid. But Hill would become the oldest player to wear the uniform since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954.
The Orioles have made multi-year offers to starting pitchers, according to executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, but Hill seems like a one-year kind of guy. The Red Sox paid him a base salary of $5 million this season, with a possible $3 million in performance incentives, and he went 8-7 with a 4.27 ERA and 1.303 WHIP in 26 starts. His 124 1/3 innings would have ranked third on the Orioles behind Jordan Lyles (179) and Dean Kremer (125 1/3).
Hill has lasted 18 years in the majors. He didn’t seem to have much of a future back in 2009, when he made 14 appearances with the Orioles after beginning the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, tore the labrum in his left shoulder during the summer and registered a 7.80 ERA and 1.873 WHIP.
Thirteen of those appearances were starts. He didn’t make another in the majors until 2015 with the Red Sox.
Hill has been used in relief only three times in his last 205 games. He’s most recently pitched for the Dodgers in 2019, Twins (in only eight games) in 2020, Rays and Mets in 2021 and Red Sox in 2022. He tends to move around, always taking with him a pretty remarkable story.
Signing Hill wouldn’t give the Orioles a definite No. 1 starter. More like the oldest active player in the majors after Albert Pujols retired, and additional experience in the rotation.
I’m beginning to feel less certain that Kyle Gibson is a back end starter.
Barring a trade, the Orioles could arrange a camp competition for the March 30 assignment in Boston. Grayson Rodriguez probably wouldn’t be invited to it. They don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him.
They try hard to manage the expectations on their prospects.
Maybe Hill would be the favorite with his career 3.85 ERA, with a track record that is a clear separator. He started the opener for the Athletics in 2016, but only after Sonny Gray was hospitalized with food poisoning. Hill was supposed to be the fifth starter breaking camp.
John Means made the last two opening day starts for the Orioles and was denied in 2020 due to arm fatigue, which put Tommy Milone at the controls. Andrew Cashner was chosen in 2019 because Alex Cobb suffered a groin strain in the final week of camp.
The Orioles felt armed with No. 1 starters in Dylan Bundy in 2018, Kevin Gausman in 2017 and Chris Tillman the three previous years. But 2023 could be very different.
The baseball world is short on proven aces on one-year deals that don't pay substantial money.
Just in case the club signs Hill, and at this point it’s only known “interest,” the rest of the oldest-Oriole list per STATS Research is Harold Baines sixth in 2000 at 41 years and 136 days, Dave Philley seventh in 1961 at 41 years and 133 days, B.J. Surhoff eighth in 2005 at 41 years and 59 days, Cal Ripken Jr. ninth in 2001 at 41 years and 43 days, Bob Boyd 10th in 1960 at 41 years and one day, Dick Hall 11th in 1971 at 40 years and 363 days, Rafael Palmeiro 12th in 2005 at 40 years and 340 days, Eddie Murray 13th in 1996 at 40 years and 217 days, Steve Reed 14th in 2005 at 40 years and 107 days, Brooks Robinson 15th in 1977 at 40 years and 87 days, Jeff Conine 16th in 2006 at 40 years and 61 days, Hoyt Wilhelm 17th in 1962 at 40 years and 60 days, Harvey Haddix 18th in 1965 at 39 years and 344 days, Dwight Evans 19th in 1991 at 39 years and 337 days, and Stu Miller 20th in 1967 at 39 years and 271 days.
The more you know …
* On this date in 2014, the Orioles signed left-handed reliever Wesley Wright to a one-year, $1.7 million contract. He made two appearances, injured his shoulder and was released in July.
On this date in 2017, the Orioles traded right-hander Jake Bray, a 12th-round draft pick four years earlier, to the Athletics as the player to be named later in the deal for outfielder Jaycob Brugman.
Bray never pitched above the Single-A level. Brugman was released in May 2019 and never played for the Orioles.
This seems like a good place to stop.
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