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.''

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

Bogaerts has three hits, three RBIs as Red Sox beat Rangers, 11-6

BOSTON - Xander Bogaerts had three hits and three RBIs, Dustin Pedroia had a two-run double during a four-run seventh inning and the Boston Red Sox beat the Texas Rangers 11-6 on Tuesday night.

Rick Porcello (3-5) won for just the second time at home despite allowing 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner struck out four and allowed five runs, four earned.

Joey Gallo got his 14th homer for Texas, and Shin-Soo Choo went 2 for 5 with two RBIs.

Texas entered having won 11 of 12. The 11 runs allowed marked a season high.

Andrew Cashner (1-4) pitched five innings, allowing five runs, six hits and four walks. He also threw a pair of wild pitches, one of them allowing Bogaerts to score from third and put Boston up 2-1 after three.

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

Dombrowski defends John Farrell after group strategy meeting on Monday

 

The Red Sox braintrust had a meeting on Monday's off-day to strategize with a 22-21 team that's underperforming and in third place.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told NESN's Tom Caron on the Sox pre-game show that he was part of a meeting with Farrell, assistant general managers Eddie Romero and Brian O'Halloran and vice president of baseball research and development Zack Scott.

"We sat down yesterday for over a couple hours," Dombrowski told Caron. "I [had] already talked to some of our scouts and just kind of [went] over our club to try to get it to fit together a little bit. Because some of those things, the injuries, and even the guys that are playing, like in Hanley [Ramirez's] case, it does affect what you’re trying to do. So normally at this time of year, I think you have a better pulse [of the team]. But I think we need a little bit more time. We just really haven’t flowed as a club. We haven’t played as well as I think we’re capable of and I think we need to give ourselves that opportunity."

Asked about Farrell's job security, Dombrowski defended a manager whose 2018 option was picked up over the winter.

"Well, we won a divisional crown last year," Dombrowski said. "He managed very well for us at the time. I think that John, as well as everybody else, is frustrated by our performance and that we haven’t taken off, but we’re not buried either. I mean, we’re four games out of first place and we really haven’t been in a flow. And when you look at it, it’s like, OK, last week Thursday we won two great games in St. Louis. I wasn’t with the team, I was in Salem. 

"Well I looked at the match-up on Thursday, and I’m thinking, well if [Sonny] Gray throws like he’s capable, I’m not sure what we’re going to get out of [Hector] Velazquez at that particular time. And of course, Velazquez didn’t have a very good outing. So you lose that ball game. Is that John’s fault? I can’t put that on John. 

"Friday night, you have Chris Sale, he threw the ball very well. Well the play that Trevor Plouffe made on Hanley Ramirez, I don’t know if he’s made a play like that all year long. Mookie Betts, in the ninth inning gets a line drive right at the third baseman. Well you have a chance to score five or six runs, didn’t happen. No excuses, but it’s one of those where I think to pin those things on John Farrell are just not fair. I think we’re in a position where he’s managed well, he’s managed divisional champions. I think we’re in a position, we have a good club. We just need to get in a better flow of things."

Dombrowski felt the Sox were harder to evaluate a quarter into the season than most teams would be.

"Because the reality is when you look at our ballclub, it really hasn’t been together at all at any point during the year for me," he said. "So I think when you look at it, you say OK, well, we need to improve our fourth and fifth starters. Well, David Price comes back next week — we think he’ll be back next week. So that’s a pretty big addition, that’s like making a major trade. 

"I still think Drew Pomeranz, although he has scuffled at times, should be a fourth-, fifth-type starter on a good club. … We need to straighten him out. I think he’s capable of doing that. When you talk about bullpen, our bullpen’s been good but I still think we’re going to get Carson Smith in a short time period, so that’s another addition that we have.

"Third base, you know has been a hole for us where Pablo Sandoval could be back very soon. I’m not sure where Brock Holt fits into that whole equation. So we’re really on our fifth third baseman right now when you look at it. Pablo is there, and then Brock Holt was there. Marco Hernandez is going to have surgery, we’re going to miss him for the rest of the year. Josh Rutledge has been over there."

Holt, out with vertigo, and the Red Sox are regrouping. Holt's exhausted the 20 days permitted for a minor league rehab stint, and is heading to Pittsburgh to meet concussion expert Micky Collins. Another rehab stint figures to follow eventually, barring a change in diagnosis.

Hernandez is to have surgery on his left shoulder Friday, which likely ends his season.

Hanley Ramirez can still be the DH, but his sore shoulders have relegated him to only that position, not first base. That's part of the reason Sam Travis was added to the roster Tuesday.

"There’s a couple reasons behind it," Dombrowski said of Travis' call-up.  "We’re in a position where we have a roster spot for a positional player. Secondly, we’ve talked about giving Mitch [Moreland] a little bit of a blow on his feet at times, to not play too many games. And we faced a left hand pitcher tomorrow [in the Rangers' Martin Perez]. He’s been hitting the ball well, Sam has. 

"We’re trying to sit [Moreland] a little bit vs. the left-handed pitching. Even though he’s done OK, we just don’t want him to get too tired as the year goes on. And the reality is, originally that was going to be Hanley [playing first base vs. lefties]. Well, Hanley’s not available to do that now, so we needed to make an adjustment ourself on how to do that. And with the extra roster spot, Pawtucket right down the road, we figure it’s a good chance to give him that opportunity. 

"In Hanley’s case, not playing first base, people don’t realize at times how much that changes the mix of your club. Because at some time, we are going to have Chris Young get at-bats and DH at that point."