Boston Red Sox reliever Rich Hill’s absence from spring training has been explained in the saddest of ways.
The pitcher, who signed a minor league deal to return to the team this offseason, arrived in Fort Myers on Wednesday night. His late arrival, he told reporters Thursday morning, was due to the illness and death of his infant son.
“We had a son on Dec. 26, and he was born with multiple issues that we confronted and had to deal with as we were moving through the last couple of months at Mass General (Hospital),” Hill said. “Unfortunately, he succumbed, and he has passed. He taught us a lot of things, and unfortunately things didn’t work out.”
Hill said the Red Sox “have been tremendous,” and his family, including his 2-year-old son, is with him in Florida as he starts the season.
“My wife has been extremely strong,” he said. “… We are going to enjoy our time here and obviously make the most of the opportunity that’s here to present itself to play baseball. … (I’m) excited to be here, to be playing baseball again and get back into the normalcy of my profession and to be around a great group of guys and to just take that next step.”
Hill pitched for Boston from 2010-2012 before spending last season with the Cleveland Indians. He signed with the Red Sox this offseason in part to be close to his family. Hill is from Milton, Mass., and played at Michigan before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2002, where he played from 2005-2008. He spent 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles.
Hill, who appeared in 40 games for the Red Sox with a 1.14 ERA in 31 2/3 innings pitched, said his focus has turned to what he can do professionally.
“I fully feel that the opportunity is here,” he said. “I think that was also with a blend of the opportunity that is here and obviously with our family situation that we had. With the opportunity that is here, (I want) to make the most of it and do everything I can on a daily basis to perform.”
The Red Sox have a crowded bullpen heading into 2014, with most contributors from last year’s World Series run mixing with several key additions.