In the grand, universal scheme, six years isn’t considered a long period of time. But for Red Sox pitcher Rich Hill, it felt like a lifetime.
After starting 13 games in 2009 for the Baltimore Orioles, Hill’s routine of taking the ball every fifth day was put on hold. Sure, during those six seasons, he found work as a major league reliever — the Milton native appeared in 40 games from 2010-12 for the Red Sox — but following abbreviated stints with the Sox, Cleveland, Anaheim and the New York Yankees, Hill found himself unemployed after being released by the Washington Nationals in June.
“It has been kind of a crazy path back to the big leagues and starting games,” Hill said.
But instead of calling it quits, Hill, 35, rediscovered his starter mojo.
He spent his summer strengthening his arm, and after throwing two extended bullpen sessions, he signed with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball where he showed enough promise to be signed to a minor league deal by the Red Sox in August.
“I was home for a little under a month, and after a couple of weeks, I stretched out my bullpen (sessions) and a couple of Independent League teams were interested, but they weren’t going to let me start, which I understood,” said the 1999 graduate of Milton High. “I went to Long Island and got an opportunity and pitched well and got picked up by Boston.”
After being recalled from Pawtucket on Sept. 8, all Hill has done in his first two major league starts in six seasons is thwart opposing hitters. In 14 innings, he has struck out 20 batters, walked just one and allowed only three runs.
For someone who has been to the bottom of the heap and back, Hill prefers to keep his rebound in perspective.
“I just try and stay in the moment,” he said. “Each pitch has its moment, so whatever happens the pitch before or after is irrelevant. I am just focusing on the task at hand.”
Having pitched for his hometown team already, Hill understands the significance of playing in such a baseball-rich city as Boston. But having been signed to a contract that expires after the season, he is just looking to maintain the health and consistency that have given him another shot at being a viable starter.
“Playing here is something I definitely appreciate — being able to play for your hometown team,” Hill said. “But really, just bouncing back from outing to outing is the biggest thing. Where it goes from here is something I’ll worry about later.”