Red Sox notes: Hill sets short-term goals


Red Sox notes: Hill sets short-term goals

OAKLAND -- Rich Hill thought the worst was over when he underwent Tommy John surgery last summer, then needed a full 10 months to return to the mound.

What Hill didn't know, of course, is that there would be another injury -- one far more minor -- that would sideline him for the better half of this season. He experienced soreness in his left forearm in the second week of June and it's taken him almost three months to return to the great big leagues.

"With all the work you put in in the off-season and all the work that goes into coming back,'' said Hill, "and having a setback like I had, it's frustrating. You see how far you've come back. It's just part of the game, I guess, so you just continue on.''

After having his comeback from Tommy John surgery interrupted, Hill is intent on making the most of the final month of the 2012 season.

"No doubt about it,'' he said. "Going out there and pitching the way I want to go out there and pitch, taking that same mindset out to the mound, and having the ball come out of your hand the way I want it to consistently -- those are all things I'm looking forward to.''

Hill is eligible for free agency after this season and would like to remain with the Red Sox. But it's too early, he said, to think about the future.

"Obviously, coming back is something that would be great,'' he said. "But that's not the focus right now. For me, I look forward to tomorrow and the day after that. It's a one-day-at-a-time process.''

For now, Hill would settle for getting through an entire season healthy. The last time that happened was 2010, and that came only after he underwent shoulder surgery the previous year.

If he can remain healthy, Hill would like to follow in the path of a number of veteran lefty relievers -- Darren Oliver, Arthur Rhodes, Jesse Orosco and others -- who have pitched into their 40s.

"I want to pitch for a long time,'' he said. "That would be great.''

A growing chrous of people in baseball are on record as recommending a change to the roster expansion rules in place.

Under the current rule, teams can add as many as 15 players after Sept. 1, meaning, theoretically, a team could have every one of its players on the 40-man roster available for September games.

Many don't like the fact that the rules change for the final month of the season after another set of rules were in place for the first five.

Others don't like the built-in inequity of the situation, with some teams having 28 or 29 players available for September games and others with 35 or 36.

"I totally dislike it,'' said Bobby Valentine of the current set-up. "You play the entire season to build a competitive advantage between your team and the competition and then it's thrown out the window in the last month of the season.''

Some have suggested a taxi-squad, where teams in September could operate with a 40-man team, but could only dress 25 for each game.

"A taxi squad or a rotation roster would be (the same problem),'' said Valentine. "You could have five lefthanded pitchers and always have three of them available. I don't think it's the right thing to do.''

Valentine has proposed the rule be enacted in reverse, with teams permitted to carry more players in the first month of the season rather than the last. That way, managers would have extra players early as players build up arm strength and endurance and get ready for the rigors of the season

"This concept is a very old concept,'' he said, "and it should be revised.''

Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a first inning single.

That gave Pedroia 10 hitting streaks of 11 or more games since coming to the big leagues in 2006. Since 1990, only Nomar Garciaparra, with 19, had more than Pedroia among Red Sox players.

NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945


NLCS: Cubs eliminate Dodgers, reach Series for first time since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.