Red Sox

Hill ready to rejoin Red Sox in improbable return to Majors

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Hill ready to rejoin Red Sox in improbable return to Majors

BOSTON - As recently as two months ago, Rich Hill was trying to stay in shape by throwing with an American Legion team in his native Milton, Mass.

Only a month ago, he was pitching for the Long Island Ducks in an unaffiliated independent league.

And sometime in the next week, Hill will start a game for the Red Sox, constituting his third stint with the franchise.

Improbable? That doesn't begin to cover it.

"I would say it's probably very (improbable),'' Hill admitted with a chuckle. "It was surprising in the beginning, but I guess, not now... It's great. If you keep working, that's really the whole thing.''

Hill is a 10-year veteran of the major leagues, having pitched for six different organizations as both a starter and reliever.

He began the year pitching in the bullpen for Washington's Triple A affiliate in Syracuse before being released.

Following some time at home, he focused on going somewhere where he could resume his role as a starter, something he hadn't done in five years.

"It's been kind of something that I've been thinking about the last couple of years,'' said Hill. "When you have a good thing going as a (lefty) specialist, you stick with that. If it's not broken....you know. That's kind of the approach I was taking out of the bullpen.

"But I've always had the feeling that I wanted to get back into starting. I enjoyed it so much. I enjoy the process, the days in-between working up to the start and being able to use all your pitches and go through a lineup, hopefully, three or four times. To be able to use all your weapons is something that was always exciting to me.''

Long Island gave him that opportunity. He made two starts there, striking out 14 in six innings and catching the eye of several scouts.

His preference was to pitch for the Red Sox again -- something he had done, on and off, from 2010 through 2012 -- and with Pawtucket suddenly short of starters thanks to major league callups (Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Henry Owens) and injuries (Brian Johnson) there was an opening for Hill.

He made five starts at Triple A, and with the Sox looking for someone to act as a sixth starter to ease the workload for Owens and Rodriguez, Hill was in the right spot, right time.

The Sox haven't announced exactly when he'll slot in to the rotation, but it seems assured that when the team starts its upcoming road trip Friday after a day off in the schedule Thursday, Hill will be part of a newly expanded rotation.

"It's been great,'' he said of the experience. "As far as I know, I feel maybe I've been somewhere between 90-94 mph. Overall, it's been (about) command, commanding the ball down in the zone and being able to throw all four pitches for strikes. That's been the big thing to me.''

Hill has had his share of injuries. He had major shoulder in 2008 while pitching for the Cubs and and Tommy John surgery several years later with the Red Sox.

Healthy again, he's regained velocity and gone back to his original delivery after experimenting with a sidearm delivery while pitching in relief.

"I'm more of a conventional, over-the-top slot (pitcher),'' said Hill. "It just feels comfortable, working over the rubber, finishing out in front. Things that I can feel. I'm gathering myself and exploding out front and really feel like I'm behind the ball.

"This was my opportunity (to start again so I said to myself) 'Go ahead and take it.' It's pretty neat.''

Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

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Tyler Thornburg wants a normal spring, but don't be surprised if it's bumpy

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Don’t confuse the goal of a normal spring training with the likelihood one will follow.

Tyler Thornburg’s time with the Red Sox has been an ordeal. He’s optimistic he can have a regular spring training after undergoing surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome in June, a surgery that included the removal of a rib which is now on display at his parents’ house. 

He said Saturday, in fact, there’s a “very good chance” of a normal spring. But there’s also a chance his build up to regular-season form runs unevenly. And that would be OK.

“I started throwing Oct. 2, that’s when they kind of gave me the go-ahead to go tossing,” Thornburg said Saturday at Winter Weekend. “So I’ve been building up slowly since then, just trying to make sure we don’t have any setbacks or things like that, and ramp it up at a good pace. I’m throwing at 120-140 feet, so it’s about the pace I’d normally be on, granted I’d know 100 percent before where I was [under normal circumstances]. So things could be a little different."

Consider a few other things Thornburg said Saturday at Foxwoods.

“I don’t really think any of us really know how quick I’m going to bounce back necessarily as far as how quickly the recovery’s going to go in spring training after an outing,” Thornburg said. “But hopefully I mean it’s fantastic, and we can kind of just keep going.”

A bit of natural uncertainty. He missed an entire season, and the reason he missed an entire season is he had a lot going on medically. 

What appeared to be a shoulder injury was far from your usual, say, rotator-cuff matter. His was a nerve issue.

“Two of the neck muscles were incredibly hypertrophied, like overgrown, and they just started squeezing on the brachial plexus, where all the nerves run down,” Thornburg said. “I’d be sitting there watching a game and just a nerve thing would hit me and I’d almost get knocked over by it. As well as the first rib was getting pulled up and my hand would just turn red some days if I was just standing there, cutting off the blood circulation. Then all the scar tissue and buildup along the nerves they had to go and dissect all that off there.”

So the injury wasn’t simple, and now, the recovery process is really a whole-body matter. 

"There’s a lot off things your arm has to get used to between using different muscles, as well as my arm was kind of working through a scenario where it was trying to overcompensate for this and [trying] to relieve that,” Thornburg said. “So just worked a different way. Now your body has to remember how to actually properly work again. It’s a lot of neuromuscular stuff.”

Thornburg noted the possibility too he could be ready to go to start the season but not really ready to go back to back yet. Would the Sox then carry him on the big league roster, or continue to build him up elsewhere? 

Velocity won’t be there right away for Thornburg, he said: “But I mean that’s what spring training is for for most guys anyway.”

There’s a lot of optimism, but naturally, there’s a lot to be seen. 

“The rehab process, it's been a massive rollercoaster,” Thornburg said. “It really has. But I mean, I've been trying to take it week to week which has been a lot easier. There's the good days and bad days, just different kinds.”

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

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Kimbrel's newborn daughter treated in Boston for heart condition

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Coming off a phenomenal season, Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel spent the offseason in Boston. Not to be closer to Fenway Park, but for proximity to something far more important: the city’s first-rate medical community.

Kimbrel’s daughter, Lydia Joy, was born in November with a heart issue.

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“It’s been a lot,” Kimbrel said Saturday at Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods. “My wife and I, we’ve kept it kind of private. But when she was born, she had some heart defects so we decided to stay in Boston and work with Children’s Hospital and just been going through that ordeal and it’s had its ups and downs but she’s doing great right now."

Focusing wasn't always easy in season, but Kimbrel said his daughter's condition has motivated him even more.

“They always say when you have a child, things change and they have," he said. "I’m definitely more focused towards her and her needs and our family needs. It’s just one day at a time and give everything I got. It’s real easy to look at her and understand everything I’m doing is for her and it makes it a lot easier.”

Kimbrel and his wife, Ashley, found out early in the 2017 season that they would be staying in Boston for the winter and were preparing.

“Everything has kind of gone as planned so far,” Kimbrel said. “She’ll have another surgery during spring training, so I’ll come back to Boston for a week and do that, but it’s been good. It’s definitely been tough, but one of the happiest, joyful times of our life.”

"Being in Boston, we feel blessed, because the doctors are the best in the world. Being able to work with them has been great.”

Kimbrel said his wife has stayed in touch with Travis Shaw’s wife. The Shaw family has had a similar experience, Kimbrel said.

“It seems like they’re doing pretty good,” Kimbrel said. “It’s been very encouraging to see.”

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