BOSTON — It’s tough to find anyone who has a bad word to say about Rich Hill.
The Red Sox starter worked his way through a complete game shutout against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, giving up two hits, one walk and striking out 10 batters for the third straight start. And everyone wants the best for the 35-year-old left-hander, who was pitching in the independent leagues just two months ago.
“For a guy that has resurrected his career in the way that he has, it’s very, very impressive,” acting manager Torey Lovullo said. “You start to get the feel that this is a little bit of a habit. … He’s starting to give us a really good feeling that he can go up there any time and command the baseball and win a game.”
Hill’s career certainly hasn’t been easy. He’s bounced around from team to team — including two previous stints with the Red Sox — and has pitched most of his innings in the minors. Add that to the personal tragedy of losing his infant son to illness before spring training in 2014, and you can really see how much Hill has had to overcome.
“I met him back in 2010 for the first time in Pawtucket, had a chance to manage him,” Lovullo said. “He was always a very kind, caring, compassionate man, a great teammate. Throw on a couple of difficult circumstances that he’s walked through over this past couple of years, and he is just so easy to root for.”
But at the end of the day, you can’t help but wonder how a guy whose last team was the Long Island Ducks became unstoppable, giving up just three runs over 23 innings and becoming the only American League pitcher in the last 100 years with 10 strikeouts in each of his first three starts with a single team. Hill attributes that to getting older and making the most of his opportunities.
“I’m older, and I’ve been able to hone my skills I guess from the last five years and get stronger,” Hill said. ” … Overall when I was younger and starting, I don’t think I was as apt to understanding pitching as much as I thought I was. As I’ve gotten older, more of that has come along.”
Hill also happens to be a local, having grown up in Milton, Mass. And the fact that his first start at Fenway Park was Friday night’s gem only makes his story better.
“It was great. I feel very fortunate,” Hill said. “I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to pitch here in Boston the first time around out of the bullpen and again to get the opportunity to come back here and be a starter. A lot of guys grow up playing baseball, and they don’t have a major league team in their own backyard.”
There’s no word on the lefty’s future in Boston, as he only signed a minor league deal with the team in August. But if staying there is in the cards for Hill, then he has no problem with that.
“This is home,” Hill said. “I think anybody would like to go back to their bed and sleep in their house every night and go to work, especially in this business, so it’s something that would be great.”
His teammates wouldn’t mind, either.
“He’s first-class,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “I think everyone’s proud of him. I’ve played with him a few times, so I think everybody is rooting for him and happy for him for what he’s doing.”
And while he’s uplifted himself, Hill seems to have had the same effect on Red Sox fans. For a team that’s 73-80 and at the bottom of the AL East, every Hill start has brought a little bit of life back to Boston.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images