Hill knows all about New England microscope


Hill knows all about New England microscope

By MaureenMullen

PAWTUCKET -- Dont expect Rich Hill to revel in the difficulties Dennys Reyes is having with the Red Sox.

Dennys is a great left-handed pitcher, Hill said Thursday night before the start of the Pawtucket Red Soxs season-opening game against Rochester. Its . . . still early in the year. Theyve only played six games.

"I understand the microscope in Boston is really small, as expected. However, hes a guy thats done it over and over for 13 years. And I learned a lot from him in spring training. He was great to me in spring training. I became friends with him. And even last year we were together in camp with the Cardinals, but I didnt get to know him as well until this year. Hes been doing it for 13 years. Hell be fine.

The only left-hander in the Sox pen, Reyes has struggled since the start of the season. He's pitched 1 23 innings in four games with a 16.20 ERA.

Although they are both lefties, essentially competing for the same spot in spring training, Hill takes no joy in Reyes' struggles. A Milton, Mass. native, he knows whats expected here.

Its not easy to do, Hill said. To play this game and play it at the highest level, in Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A., the biggest markets, is difficult. Some other places, people might look past that and say, Oh, well, were not expected to do anything here this year in a smaller market. But since its such a big market, and everythings magnified, expectations are so high.

"So, yeah, you do feel for a guy that goes out there and struggles . . . Youve been in that position and struggled so you know exactly how that feels.

You want everybody to play to the best of their potential because when that happens, the competition's greater and thats what makes it a lot more fun. You want guys to go out there and be at their best when youre pitching against those hitters because you can say I beat them at their best, not on a day when they werent at their best. But the days that youre not, you've got to find a way to get through it and win.

When the Red Sox sent him down, on March 25, they gave him very simple instructions.

Just pitch, Hill said. Thats really essentially all you can do. Pitch with conviction and really let things happen. Things that are out of your control you cant control. You can only control the pitch that youre throwing at that time. Thats really all I think about.

That's what Hill did Thursday night, picking up the victory in the PawSox' 2-1 Opening Night win with 2 13 innings of scoreless relief.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Hitting coach Chili Davis is the perfect shoulder for Hanley Ramirez to lean on

Shoulder injuries don’t have to be damning for hitters. Look at the 469-foot home run Hanley Ramirez decimated Saturday in a 7-4 loss to the Cubs.

Yes, he’s gotten off to a slow start. Through 19 games played, he has two long balls.

But he had just one homer through the same number of games in 2016. He’s hitting .250 now. A year ago at this point, he was hitting .266.

“Last year, Hanley started slow,” hitting coach Chili Davis said prior to the Cubs series. “I watched him, work, and work, and work, and work, and you know, he didn’t abandon what he was working on. He didn’t abandon it, he stuck with it and he perfect ed it. And when he perfected it, he went off. He’s still working.

“Timing, consistency with timing, and it could be partially the shoulder bothering him.”

At least eight times in his career, Ramirez has been considered day-to-day or gone to the disabled list because of a shoulder injury. He partially dislocated his left shoulder, his lead shoulder, in 2007.

Hey, did you notice it was 83 degrees at first pitch Saturday?

“When it’s cold, and you’ve got bad joints, it affects you,” Davis said during the week. “When it warms up, it loosens up more.”

Davis knows better than most how to handle shoulder pain, how to be a successful power hitter despite it. The former switch-hitting slugger has a metal screw in his left shoulder after a 1986 surgery.

“For 13 years I played with it,” Davis said. “It was multiple dislocations. I slipped down some stairs in Riverfront Stadium. Grabbed a rail, and dislocated it. It dislocated like five times after this. It was so loose.”

Davis, now 57 years old and last a big leaguer in 1999, still has the screw in that shoulder. Today they make dissolvable ones, but didn't back then.

Believe it or not, Davis believes the surgery helped his righthanded swing. He was a switch-hitter, and batting righty, he liked to hook the ball.

“I’d get out and around,” Davis said. “And then I realized I had to use my top hand more. … It created power the other way for me. It was ridiculous how that happened. I mean, it was ridiculous. 

“Because if you really think about it, [the right] is my strong hand. I do everything with this hand, I eat, I’m a right-handed guy. … Everything right-handed was all over the field.”

Davis said hitters are always aware of their health situations. He remembers coming back from ankle surgery and the bad habits he created. The day he finally let himself act normally, he heard a pop. But it wasn’t trouble: it was merely scar tissue breaking up.

The shoulders are, of course, important. But Davis explained that a swing where the shoulders do most of the work is probably not ideal.

“People talk to connection with the backside, feel that connection. Well, that connection creates synchronicity,” Davis said. “Yeah, it creates some power, but you can try to feel connection and lose your hands, your hands get lost in the process. So they got to work perfect together. 

“But the bigger muscles, to me, were the stop muscles for me. If I was going to swing and I went to stop, that’s when I felt these things holding me back, or the connection holding me back. So just from experience alone, yeah, if the shoulders are involved in your swing, then you’ve got a long swing and your hands aren’t going to work the right way.”

There was a moonshot Saturday that suggested Ramirez’s hands are working properly, and that his shoulder pain won't mean a drop-off from last year necessarily.

“I think at times he may [be compensating],” Davis said. “He’s working on things. If he wasn't working, if he came in the cage during BP and I didn’t think that he was working on something, then I’d have a problem with that. But he’s working, and last year he worked and worked and worked until it clicked. So, I’m hoping the same thing happens this year.”

Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox


Rizzo hits one of Cubs' three home runs in 7-4 win over Red Sox

BOSTON - Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Montero and Ben Zobrist had solo shots, helping the Chicago Cubs rebound from a series-opening loss with a 7-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Kris Bryant had two hits and scored twice for Chicago, backing a decent start by former Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Lackey (2-3) gave up four runs in six innings, snapping his string of losses in three straight starts. He was part of Boston's 2013 World Series title team.

Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Benintendi had solo homers for the Red Sox, who have the majors' fewest homers.

Steven Wright (1-3) gave up five runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Wade Davis pitched the ninth for his sixth save.