Rich Hill is a side-arming left-handed specialist now

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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.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.