A reliable lefty capable of posting 150-200 innings a year, Hitchcock’s four-plus career ERA was sufficient to keep him starting in the #3 or #4 slot in several major league rotations. In 2000 he blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery. He was expected to be out for the whole 2001 season, but made three starts for the Padres before being traded to the Yankees, with whom he began his career in 1992. When he learned of the trade to the contending Bronx Bombers he told a reporter, “Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Hitchcock was the Padres’ most effective starter against the Atlanta Braves in the 1998 NLCS, a series marred by a beanball thrown at San Diego catcher Jim Leyritz by Greg Maddux in Game Three. Hitchcock earned some notoriety the following spring training when he hit Maddux on the hip; the Braves argued that the pitch had been retaliation for the earlier incident, but both Hitchcock and Leyritz denied this.