Hill pleased with progress, optimistic for season


Hill pleased with progress, optimistic for season

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After undergoing Tommy John surgery last June, Rich Hill won't be ready to start the season on April 5. But he doesn't expect to be sidelined much longer than a month after the season opener.

"Absolutely, no doubt about it,'' said Hill. "We look at March 1 and two months away from there . . . that's a lot of time in my mind. So I think that's absolutely possible.''

Hill is not alone in his optimism. Signed to a minor league deal over the winter, the Red Sox purchased his contract and added him to the 40-man roster earlier this week, weeks before Hill's opt-out clause would have forced a decision.

The message was obvious: The Red Sox believe that Hill will be healthy, and sooner rather than later.

"I think all the work I put in is paying off,'' said Hill.

Hill could be a valuable weapon for the Sox. In limited playing time last season, he held opposing lefties to a .115 (3-for-26) batting average.

For now, however, Hill is focused on his recovery and completing his rehabilitation.

"I just had my fourth bullpen today,'' said Hill. "There aren't any breaking balls or changeups yet. We're working changeups on flat ground. Breaking balls are probably a week-and-a-half away. Long toss is unrestricted. I think now it's a matter of building up endurance off the mound and keep working on repetition of mechanics.

"For the fourth time off the mound, I'm really pleased with how it's been going. The elbow is feeling stronger.''

Hill has progressed so far that the toughest challenge is resisting the urge to speed up his program. But that would put his recovery in jeopardy, and tough as it is, he must be patient.

"I feel like I could have thrown live BP today,' he said. "However, you don't want to go out there and risk anything. Everyone I've talked to says, 'Do the best that you can at the stage you're at and move on.' ''

Should Hill be ready to pitch for the Sox on May 1, his recovery time will be just shy of 11 months. Since he's not starting -- and in fact, will be used mostly as a lefty specialist, tasked with facing only a batter or two -- he needn't worry about getting stretched out to 90-100 pitches, the way Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey, two other Sox pitchers who are coming off Tommy John, must.

Once he begins using his entire repertoire, Hill must guard against any setbacks. It's not unusual for pitchers close to the rehab finish line to experience soreness after throwing breaking pitches for the first time in 10 or so months.

"I'm expecting to feel good,'' he said, "but I haven't had a day where I have to take step back. That could still happen.''

Hill has a decision of sorts to make soon -- whether to use the low three-quarter delivery he used with great effectiveness the previous two seasons or return to a more conventional over-the-top delivery.

"Obviously, over-the-top is the way I threw when I was a starter'' said Hill. "That's not going to be my role here, starting. As soon as we start throwing breaking balls and full bullpens, from there I'll probably decide which route to take.''

Dr. James Andrews, who pioneered the Tommy John procedure and performed it on Hill, assured him that the lower arm angle was not the cause of the ligament tear.

In the meantime, all the rehab work and arm exercises Hill has done has had some unintended consequences in that it also served to strengthen his shoulder and entire body.

"Everything benefits,'' he said. "Overall, your whole body is stronger.''

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."