Boston Red Sox

Hill ready to rejoin Red Sox in improbable return to Majors

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Hill ready to rejoin Red Sox in improbable return to Majors

BOSTON - As recently as two months ago, Rich Hill was trying to stay in shape by throwing with an American Legion team in his native Milton, Mass.

Only a month ago, he was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in an unaffiliated independent league.

And sometime in the next week, Hill will start a game for the Red Sox, constituting his third stint with the franchise.

Improbable? That doesn't begin to cover it.

"I would say it's probably very (improbable),'' Hill admitted with a chuckle. "It was surprising in the beginning, but I guess, not now... It's great. If you keep working, that's really the whole thing.''

Hill is a 10-year veteran of the major leagues, having pitched for six different organizations as both a starter and reliever.

He began the year pitching in the bullpen for Washington's Triple A affiliate in Syracuse before being released.

Following some time at home, he focused on going somewhere where he could resume his role as a starter, something he hadn't done in five years.

"It's been kind of something that I've been thinking about the last couple of years,'' said Hill. "When you have a good thing going as a (lefty) specialist, you stick with that. If it's not broken....you know. That's kind of the approach I was taking out of the bullpen.

"But I've always had the feeling that I wanted to get back into starting. I enjoyed it so much. I enjoy the process, the days in-between working up to the start and being able to use all your pitches and go through a lineup, hopefully, three or four times. To be able to use all your weapons is something that was always exciting to me.''

Long Island gave him that opportunity. He made two starts there, striking out 14 in six innings and catching the eye of several scouts.

His preference was to pitch for the Red Sox again -- something he had done, on and off, from 2010 through 2012 -- and with Pawtucket suddenly short of starters thanks to major league callups (Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Henry Owens) and injuries (Brian Johnson) there was an opening for Hill.

He made five starts at Triple A, and with the Sox looking for someone to act as a sixth starter to ease the workload for Owens and Rodriguez, Hill was in the right spot, right time.

The Sox haven't announced exactly when he'll slot in to the rotation, but it seems assured that when the team starts its upcoming road trip Friday after a day off in the schedule Thursday, Hill will be part of a newly expanded rotation.

"It's been great,'' he said of the experience. "As far as I know, I feel maybe I've been somewhere between 90-94 mph. Overall, it's been (about) command, commanding the ball down in the zone and being able to throw all four pitches for strikes. That's been the big thing to me.''

Hill has had his share of injuries. He had major shoulder in 2008 while pitching for the Cubs and and Tommy John surgery several years later with the Red Sox.

Healthy again, he's regained velocity and gone back to his original delivery after experimenting with a sidearm delivery while pitching in relief.

"I'm more of a conventional, over-the-top slot (pitcher),'' said Hill. "It just feels comfortable, working over the rubber, finishing out in front. Things that I can feel. I'm gathering myself and exploding out front and really feel like I'm behind the ball.

"This was my opportunity (to start again so I said to myself) 'Go ahead and take it.' It's pretty neat.''

Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.

Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.