Boston Red Sox

Hill: 'I am 100 percent healthy'

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Hill: 'I am 100 percent healthy'

Rich Hill, the Greater Boston native and hockey fan, is glad to have the Bruins back in action. During the lockout, he and his 16-month-old son, Brice, got their hockey fix watching the World Junior Championships and other non-NHL forms of hockey.Hes running around, swinging the bat, getting ready to get out on the ice, Hill said of Brice. He wants to play hockey. He likes all hockey.But Hill makes his living pitching. And with pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training for most teams in about two weeks, Brices dad is still waiting.Ive been working out, throwing, the left-hander said by phone Wednesday afternoon. I got off the mound. I get off the mound again tomorrow. So itll be three times and another time probably on Saturday and then hopefully its somewhere warmer than Boston. But well see.Hill, like last year, was non-tendered by the Red Sox this offseason, becoming a free agent again. Last year, the Sox soon brought him back on a minor league contract.After Tommy John surgery in June 2011, Hill, who turns 33 in March, began last season on the disabled list, making his debut on April 29. He appeared in 17 games, spanning 13 23 innings, going 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA before missing 75 games with a left elbow strain. He came back on Sept. 1, appearing in eight games, spanning six scoreless innings, giving up five hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts.In all last season, Hill appeared in 25 games, spanning 19 23 innings, in 2012, posting a record of 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA, six holds, a 1.424 WHIP, and a 1.91 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Of his 25 appearances, 22 were scoreless, 16 were hitless, and nine were perfect.This offseason, though, is not like last for Hill.Last year was a lot more certainty than there is this year, he said. Which is kind of a surprise being 100 percent healthy, feeling as good as I do and demonstrating, obviously last year coming back in September and pitching well. And really every time Ive gone out there Ive pitched well. Its just obviously staying on the field and being healthy. Thats the big thing. Right now I dont see that as a concern at all.His health is not an issue, he said. He believes he showed that in September.Just the coming off Tommy John surgery, coming back in pretty fast time and being able to pitch successfully and have something like we had last year with the flexor strain, he said. But to be able to come back as healthy as I have been this offseason, there havent been any hold backs or anything of the sort. And I hate to sit here and talk about health because its just really starting to become redundant.Since joining the Sox as a minor league free agent in June 2010, Hill has been one of their most effective left-handed relievers. In three seasons with the Sox, he has allowed just four earned runs over 31 23 innings in 40 appearances, going 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA, the best in team history among pitchers with at least 25 innings.Hill has talked with several teams.
Theres a lot of interest circulating all offseason, he said. But its just finding the right situation, really.But his communication with the Sox this offseason has been limited.A little bit, he said. I talked to new manager John Farrell a couple times. Havent heard back yet. But I talked to him over the phone and saw him at a pitching talk in Falmouth. But then havent really talked to him.Hill last talked to Farrell at a fundraiser for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod League earlier this month.Any time you can talk about pitching in January, its always fun, he said.His elbow is completely healthy now, he said, and he has no restrictions on throwing. He is on a normal program, with no restrictions.Last year I wasnt restricted from anything at all, either, he said. Because I was healthy I mean healthy in regards to a person whos going to go into the gym and work out, not in regards to a pitcher whos getting ready to start a major league season. That had to be built up last year. The throwing program was obviously build, build, build. And then now where Im at, thats in my rear-view mirror and everythings working up from here.Teams, he said, have not been asking about his health.No, theyre not really concerned about the health, he said. I think its just the amount of time spent on the field as off the field, unfortunately. Because of things that are out of my control with injuries that have happened, its just part of it. But there hasnt been any concern as far as whether Im healthy or not. Just a matter of showing over an entire season. But I do understand on one hand. But on the other hand, for my own reasons, I say Im healthy now and I feel that Im very capable of staying on the field for an entire season.Its just the whole health question is kind of non-existent any more, as far as knowing that I am 100 percent healthy.His elbow feels so good, in fact, that he would consider going back to being a starter, something he hasnt done at the major league level since 2009, when he made 14 appearances, 13 starts, with the Orioles.I do feel that good, he said. With that said, I dont know if thats something that would happen again. Just giving me the option of whatever that would be, going to the minor leagues and start. But that would mean passing up the opportunity of relieving in the big leagues. So, you kind, its just something that Ive thought about because, geez, I feel this great, and when you feel that good this is something that maybe I want to do again. But on the other hand, why?Especially when he seemed to have found a role in the bullpen.Yeah, he said. I feel like I found a niche. I found something that obviously Im good at, coming out of the bullpen and pitching successfully out of the bullpen. And I like pitching out of the bullpen.He believes it is something he will be doing again soon. He isnt concerned. He believes that, being healthy, something will come through.There are things that are out there, he said. Im not nervous about getting a job, because I am healthy. Even if -- lets say worst-case scenario you dont sign anywhere -- Im 100 percent healthy and convinced that if I did go out and pitch, wherever it might be, somebody would see that and say OK, we need to sign this guy. Thats how I see it.

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

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Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

CINCINNATI - Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam - a Reds' season record - in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games - most in the majors - after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young.

Part of Porcello's problem has been a lack of run support. Boston has been blanked while he's on the mound in 10 of his losses. This time, the Red Sox got him off the hook, overcoming Gennett's career-high 27th homer with the help of Devers' three-run shot off Sal Romano (5-7).

The Red Sox are last in the AL with 159 homers.

Left-hander David Price (6-3) pitched 2 2/3 innings and contributed a single, bringing the Red Sox to the front of the dugout for a celebration. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances.

Gennett was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee late in spring training. He has provided some of the Reds' best moments in an 88-loss season, including a four-homer game on June 6. His homer off Porcello ended the Red Sox' streak of 26 straight scoreless innings.

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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