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.
With his team trailing 8-3 to begin the bottom of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game against the Astros, Indians third baseman José Ramirez eventually won a 17-pitch at-bat against closer Ken Giles, ripping a double off of the wall in right field. The Indians would go on to score five runs on seven hits to tie the game against Giles and Hector Rondon. Ramirez almost won the game in his second at-bat of the ninth inning, but first basebamn Yuli Gurriel made a terrific diving catch on a line drive otherwise headed for the right field corner.
Giants first baseman Brandon Belt set a new modern record for the longest at-bat last month, seeing 21 pitches against the Angels’ Jaime Barria. The Astros’ Ricky Gutierrez sfaw 20 pitches from the Indians’ Bartolo Colon on June 26, 1998, which was the previous record. Kevin Bass saw 19 pitches from the Phillies’ Steve Bedrosian in 1988. There have also been five 18-pitch at-bats from Brian Downing, Bip Roberts, Alex Cora, Adam Kennedy, and Marcus Semien.
Sunday’s game wound up going 14 innings. The Astros pulled ahead 9-8 in the top of the 13th on a solo home run from Evan Gattis. However, the Indians’ Yonder Alonso responded with a solo shot of his own in the bottom of the 13th to re-knot the game at 9-9. Greg Allen then lifted a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 14th to give the Indians a 10-9 win.
After Sunday’s effort, Ramirez is batting .292/.389/.605 with 15 home runs, 37 RBI, 34 runs scored, and seven stolen bases. According to FanGraphs, his 3.5 Wins Above Replacement ranks third across baseball behind Mike Trout (4.4) and Mookie Betts (4.1). They’re the only players at three wins or above.