Rich Hill had success as a starter in his first two seasons, but injuries and ineffectiveness have doomed him in the three years since then and now he’s trying to win a spot in the Red Sox’s bullpen with the help of a new arm slot.
Hill, who used to throw from the three-quarters level as a starter, has dropped down to sidearm level in an effort to be more effective against left-handed batters.
John Farrell made the suggestion to Hill late last season prior to switching jobs from Red Sox pitching coach to Blue Jays manager, and yesterday Hill told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that “it just feels like it’s a natural thing.”
Terry Francona has been impressed, noting that the lower arm slot coming out of a 6-foot-5 frame “makes left-handed hitters give” in the batters’ box, but Hill is likely still facing an uphill battle to win a spot on the Opening Day pitching staff after the Red Sox re-signed left-hander Hideki Okajima and also brought in veteran southpaw specialist Dennys Reyes.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.