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Angels riding a Hill pinnacle

Anaheim starter Ken Hill exited Saturday night's game without flashy numbers. But while the Rays' pitching was erratic, the 6-foot-5 Hill was a mountain of stability on the mound.

The right-hander (4-1) gave up five hits, struck out three and walked one in 7 innings.

Stability is not the first thing that comes to mind when looking at Hill's career. The 32-year-old is playing for his fifth team in six seasons (not counting a second stint with St. Louis). Changes in cities often came with changes in production.

But so far this season, he has been a model of consistency.

"He's pitched great for us," Anaheim manager Terry Collins said. "He just makes pitches down in the zone. He threw his split for strikes today. And you can see, when he reaches back, he throws 94."

Hill, who went into the game with a career record of 102-84 and a 3.75 ERA, said he felt as comfortable as he looked.

"I was in command, throwing all my pitches for strikes," Hill said. "Keeping them off balance.

"I feel good because I'm helping the ballclub. We've been struggling a little bit lately. It was good to come in here and get the first two."

Hill's debut at Tropicana Field left the opposition impressed as well.

"He was changing speeds, and when you can throw your fastball and changeup for strikes, you're going to get guys out," Rays third baseman Bobby Smith said. "There's not a lot we can do about that."

Rays manager Larry Roths-child added, "It looked like he could throw the split any time he wanted to _ and throw it for strikes. And he could go out of the strike zone if he needed to."

Hill's pitching arsenal has seen its share of homes.

A 16-5 season with Montreal in 1994 gave way to a 6-7 start with St. Louis, where he began his career, the next season. He finished that season going 4-1 for Cleveland.

A yo-yo season and a half with Texas _ he went 16-10 in 1996, then started 5-8 in 1997 _ ended with his trade to Anaheim in late July.

Though Hill's results have varied, his outlook has remained constant.

"Actually, I've felt comfortable wherever I've been," Hill said. "I can't control a trade. I just have to go out and do the best I can with the club I'm with."

Hill already has matched last year's win total in his 12 starts with the Angels. The victory came in front of his wife, Lorrie, a Tampa native who brought a small rooting section.

With the dome's growing reputation as a hitter's park, one might think Hill would have to alter his style. Not so.

"I approach (pitching) the same way I approach it in any ballpark," he said. "I don't try to change the way I'm going to pitch."

Ken Hill's career

Year Team Record ERA

1988 St. Louis 0-1 5.14

1989 St. Louis 7-15 3.80

1990 St. Louis 5-6 5.49

1991 St. Louis 11-10 3.57

1992 Montreal 16-9 2.68

1993 Montreal 9-7 3.23

1994 Montreal 16-5 3.32

1995 StL-Cle 10-8 4.62

1996 Texas 16-10 3.63

1997 Tex-Ana 9-12 4.55