CHICAGO -- Less than 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, reliever Rich Hill made it back to the big leagues Friday, promoted from Pawtucket where he had been on a rehab assignment.
"He worked so hard and stayed with the program,'' said Bobby Valentine. "He was religious with his work ethic. It's a credit to a plan that was followed and a guy that was able to follow a plan. The plan wasn't really for (him to return by) April, so that makes it a little remarkable.''
Hill credited his return to "all the work that we did this off-season and put in, everything from the lifts in the gym to the work Mike (Reinold, physical therapist) put in, our shoulder program, everything is starting to pay off. Now that it's over with, it's go time.
Hill made 11 appearances at various stops in the minor league and dominated hitters.
"It comes down to this,'' said Hill. "Every time you go out there, if you throw the ball with conviction and have the ball come out of your hand every time the way you want it too, things are going to more often than not, go your way. I've been saying that throughout the process and I believe it.''
The lefty said he thought the ball was coming out of his hand better than before the surgery last June, and that his velocity has actually improved 2 mph, too.
"It's coming out with more life,'' said Hill. "It just seems that everything is put together better. And that's mostly due to the regimen of working out this past off-season. It's not really rehabbing your elbow; it's more so that you maintain and continue to strengthen your shoulder.''
Valentine declined to get too specfic about how Hill will be used, saying only "not too early (in games), and not for too long.''
That suggests that, at least initially, Hill will be utilized mostly as a lefty specialist.
"I know I can get both righties and lefties out,'' said Hill. "Whatever the need is for this team to win and to move forward, I think everybody has to give their role and step aside from themselves. If you think, 'Hey, I'm not this,' or 'I'm not a lefty specialist,' your role is to help the team to win. That's the bottom line. That's how I feel.''
To make room for Hill, the Red Sox optioned Justin Thomas to Pawtucket.