Red Sox offer first glimpse of how effective Rich Hill-Garrett Whitlock pairing can be

Towards the end of spring training, Red Sox manager Alex Cora revealed that Rich Hill would begin the year as the team’s fifth starter.

As a result of that decision, Garrett Whitlock, who had been competing with Hill throughout camp for the final spot in Boston’s starting rotation, would remain in the bullpen as he did over the course of the 2021 season.

At the time he named Hill the No. 5 starter, Cora indicated that the Sox were going to have Whitlock stretched out and were planning on having the two hurlers paired together on days Hill started.

The main idea behind the two piggybacking off one another is that Hill, a left-hander, does not possess the same sort of overpowering velocity that Whitlock, a right-hander does.

On Tuesday, the Red Sox were able to put this plan into action against the Tigers at Comerica Park. Hill allowed three earned runs on five hits, one walk, and four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings of work. That is good for an ERA of 6.23, though his 1.95 FIP is much more indicative of how he actually pitched.

Of the 70 pitches Hill threw on Tuesday afternoon, 54 went for strikes. The 42-year-old southpaw’s slowest pitch (a curveball) registered at 66.2 mph while his fastest pitch (a four-seam fastball) registered at 89.8 mph, per Baseball Savant.

After Hill had already recorded the first out of the fifth inning, Cora turned to his bullpen and Hirokazu Sawamura, who stranded the lone runner he inherited to turn things over to Whitlock beginning in the sixth.

Whitlock entered a 3-3 game, fresh off signing a four-year contract extension with Boston over the weekend. Making his first relief appearance since last Friday, the hard-throwing righty was nearly perfect as he struck out two and retired 12 of the 13 hitters he faced.

In the process of dominating the Tigers’ lineup, Whitlock was the benefactor of a late eighth-inning rally that lifted the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory on Tuesday. Picking up his first win of the year as a result, the 25-year-old needed just 39 pitches (28 strikes) to toss four scoreless, no-hit frames.

Of those 39 pitches, the slowest Whitlock threw (a slider) registered at 79.6 mph and the fastest (a sinking fastball) clocked in at 96.8 mph. Quite the difference from what Hill was offering earlier in the contest.

“There’s a reason we like them together,” Cora said. “They’re gonna load up with righties against Rich and he can get them out and then we can turn the page to Whitlock and we get a lot of good matchups for us. I think both of them complement each other well. (Hill throwing) 88 with ride, and then (Whitlock throwing) 94, 95 with that stuff. It’s a good plan. It’s just a matter of how long we can do it.”

The Red Sox’ plan to have Whitlock piggyback Hill will work better in the month of April while rosters are expanded. As highlighted by The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, Boston is currently carrying 10 relievers on its 28-man roster.

With Whitlock available for multiple innings on days Hill pitches, the Red Sox will have nine other relievers to choose from on days when Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, or Tanner Houck are starting.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock and Kevin Plawecki: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Hill to begin 2022 season in Red Sox’ starting rotation; Garrett Whitlock will remain in bullpen

Rich Hill will open the 2022 season as the Red Sox’ No. 5 starter, manager Alex Cora announced earlier Monday morning. The veteran left-hander will make his first start of the year against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park next Tuesday.

Hill, 42, signed a one-year, $5 million deal to return to the Sox last December. The Milton, Mass. native has posted a 9.35 ERA in three appearances (two starts) spanning 8 2/3 innings of work this spring and is expected to throw a six-inning, 90-pitch simulated game at JetBlue Park on Wednesday.

With Hill being named Boston’s fifth starter, Garrett Whitlock will move to the bullpen to start the season. The two hurlers had been competing for a spot in the Sox’ rotation throughout the spring. And while Hill may have prevailed, the Red Sox will keep Whitlock stretched out in the event they need another starter.

“We’re going to stretch him out. He’ll be ready for Thursday,” Cora said of Whitlock. “We’ll try to stretch him out and go from there. We have to do this. We have to keep six guys stretched out because of the nature of the schedule. I think we can be creative in a sense. Both of them are going to be a big part of what we try to accomplish.”

In terms of being creative, Cora alluded to the fact that the club has entertained the idea of having Whitlock piggyback Hill on days the latter starts.

“That’s something we’ve been talking about since we signed Rich,” said Cora. “We can pair them together.”

Having a hard-throwing righty such as Whitlock come in for a finesse lefty such as Hill could make for an intriguing strategy to win ballgames. Opposing teams who stack their lineup with right-handed bats to face Hill would then be put in a tough spot when Whitlock, who held right-handed hitters to a .522 OPS against last year, makes his way out of the Boston bullpen.

“People are going to mix and match with them,” Cora said. “They’re the total opposite numbers-wise. … It makes sense. Put them together and use them the right way.”

(Picture of Rich Hill: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rich Hill gets shelled, Kevin Plawecki homers as Red Sox fall to Rays, 9-3

The Red Sox fell to 9-6 in Grapefruit League play on Friday following a 9-3 loss to the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park.

Despite losing by six runs, it was actually the Sox who got on the board first in their half of the third inning. With starter Ryan Yarbrough on the mound for the Rays, Rob Refsnyder led off with a single, advanced to second base on a Jonathan Arauz walk, and advanced to third on a Christian Arroyo groundout.

Trevor Story, who made the trip to Port Charlotte for Friday’s contest, then drove in Refsnyder on a sacrifice fly to left field. Story’s second RBI of the spring gave Boston an early 1-0 lead, though it did not last long.

Red Sox starter Rich Hill began his afternoon by retiring each of the six batters he faced, but immediately ran into trouble in the bottom of the third when he issued a leadoff single to Taylor Walls. A double from Brett Phillips to follow put runners at second and third for Harold Ramirez, who put the Rays up 2-1 on a two-run single to left field.

Wander Franco moved Ramirez up to second base with another single and both runners scored on back-to-back run-scoring hits from Brandon Lowe and Manuel Margot to make it a 4-1 game.

Having recorded just one out in the third, Hill was temporarily pulled in favor of Jacob Wallace out of the Red Sox bullpen. Wallace, in turn, allowed both runners he inherited to score on a two-run double off the bat of Austin Meadows.

After getting through the third, Wallace made way for Hill once more. The veteran left-hander rebounded by facing the minimum three batters in the fourth, but got shelled for three more runs on three more hits in the fifth.

All told, Hill surrendered nine runs — all of which were earned — on 11 hits and no walks to go along with one strikeout over 3 2/3 total innings of work. The 42-year-old southpaw should be making one more start before the regular season begins.

In relief of Hill, Brendan Nail came on for Hill in the fifth and recorded the final two outs of the frame via swinging strikeout. From there, Jake Diekman maneuvered his way around a hit batsman and walk in a scoreless sixth, Austin Davis sat down the side in order in the seventh, and Tyler Danish did the same in the eighth.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Nick Sogard led the inning off by reaching first base on a fielding error. Kevin Plawecki then took Rays reliever Christopher Gau deep to left-center field for his first home run of the spring.

Plawecki’s two-run blast made it a 9-3 game in favor of Tampa Bay, which would go on to be Friday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

Rafael Devers went 1-for-1 with a double and was also hit by a pitch. He is now batting .450 this spring.

Franchy Cordero doubled in his only at-bat of the day after being used as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. He is now batting .476 this spring.

Top prospect Marcelo Mayer came on as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning and went 0-for-1 with the game-ending flyout.

Next up: Brubaker vs. Eovaldi

The Red Sox return to Fort Myers to take on the Pirates at JetBlue Park on Saturday afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi will be making one final tune-up before Opening Day and he will be opposed by fellow right-hander J.T. Brubaker.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox crush 3 home runs, top Braves, 10-7, in Trevor Story’s Grapefruit League debut

The Red Sox improved to 8-5 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday afternoon with a 10-7 victory over the Braves at JetBlue Park.

Using a lineup that is likely to mirror the one they feature on Opening Day, the Sox got things going right away against Braves starter Ian Anderson. Before recording an out in the first inning, Enrique Hernandez drew a leadoff walk and Rafael Devers clubbed a towering two-run homer over the Fenway South Green Monster.

Devers’ fourth home run of the spring jolted Boston to an early 2-0 lead, but they were not done there. Not with Alex Verdugo ripping a two-out double off Anderson, advancing to third to load the bases, and scoring from third when Jackie Bradley Jr. was hit by a pitch to make it a 3-0 game.

An inning later, the top of the Red Sox lineup struck once more when Hernandez led off with an infield single and scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of J.D. Martinez.

Christian Vazquez added on to his side’s lead in the bottom of the third. Following a leadoff double from Bobby Dalbec, Vazquez crushed a two-run shot to left field off Anderson. The veteran backstop’s first big fly of the spring made it a 6-0 game in favor of Boston.

That sequence provided Sox starter Tanner Houck with a sizable cushion to operate with out of the gate. Making his third start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the right-hander began his day by retiring eight of the first 13 batters he faced heading into the fourth inning.

That is where things began to get a bit shaky for Houck. The 25-year-old yielded back-to-back singles to Ozzie Albies and Eddie Rosario to begin the frame before spiking a wild pitch that allowed both runners to advance an additional 90 feet.

A sacrifice fly from Alex Dickerson brought in Albies from third for the Braves’ first run of the afternoon. Houck then plunked Guillermo Heredia, but escaped any further damage by fanning Dansby Swanson, who would turn out to be the last hitter he would face on Wednesday.

All told, Houck allowed just one earned run on five hits, no walks, and three hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over four erratic innings of work. He should be in line to make one more start before the regular season begins.

Shortly after Houck recorded the final out in the top half of the fourth, the Boston bats continued to pound Atlanta pitching in the bottom half of the frame.

With reliever Dylan Lee on the mound for the Braves, Jonathan Arauz provided some more leadoff pop by mashing his first home run of the spring. A J.D. Martinez walk and opposite-field double for Franchy Cordero then put runners at second and third for Trevor Story, who came through with a line-drive RBI single to plate Martinez. Cordero himself scored on another RBI base hit courtesy of Bobby Dalbec.

Despite having a commanding 9-1 lead going into the fifth, the Red Sox bullpen struggled a bit in relief of Houck. Kaleb Ort received the first call from manager Alex Cora and proceeded to serve up a solo homer to Travis d’Arnaud and a three-run blast to Adam Duvall while only managing to record two outs.

Ryan Fernandez then came on for Ort and surrendered a solo home run of his own to Dickerson, though he was able to end the inning with Boston still in possession of a three-run lead at 9-6.

It did not take long for the Sox to get one of those runs back, though, as Yolmer Sanchez followed up a scoreless sixth inning from Hirokazu Sawamura by plating the pinch-running Christin Stewart on a sacrifice fly to right field off Allan Winans.

From there, Ryan Brasier got himself in and out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, Matt Barnes gave up one run on two hits and one walk in the eighth, and newcomer Matt Strahm closed things out by stranding a pair of base runners in a shutout ninth inning.

Some notes from this win:

In his Grapefruit League debut, Trevor Story went 1-for-2 with an RBI single, a walk, and a strikeout. The 29-year-old started at second base, batted out of the six-hole, and was pinch-ran for by Yolmer Sanchez in the fourth inning.

Franchy Cordero replaced Alex Verdugo in left field in the third inning. He went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, one RBI, and one strikeout.

Through seven games this spring, Rafael Devers is slashing .389/.400/1.056 with four home runs, eight RBIs, six runs scored, one walk, and six strikeouts over 20 plate appearances.

Next up: Bundy vs. Hill

The Red Sox will take on the Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday afternoon, with the race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup currently tied at two games apiece.

Rich Hill is slated to get the start for Boston and Garrett Whitlock will also pitch. Hill will be opposed by right-hander Dylan Bundy for Minnesota.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will not be televised.

(Picture of Trevor Story: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Garrett Whitlock tosses 3 scoreless innings in first start of spring, but Red Sox fall to Twins, 6-3

The Red Sox fell to 7-4 in Grapefruit League play on Sunday afternoon following a 6-3 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium. The race for the 2022 Chairman’s Cup is now tied at two games apiece.

Garrett Whitlock made his first-ever start for Boston in his second appearance of the spring on Sunday. The right-hander allowed just one hit and one walk to go along with two strikeouts over three scoreless innings of work.

Of the 47 pitches Whitlock threw, 33 went for strikes. The 25-year-old hurler also sat around 95.1 mph with his four-seam fastball while topping out at 95.5 mph with the pitch.

In relief of Whitlock, Jake Diekman received the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen. Coming off a rough spring debut last week, the veteran left-hander’s struggles continued on Sunday. Despite recording the first two outs of the fourth rather easily, Diekman proceeded to load the bases on one hit and two walks before walking in a run by issuing another free pass to Gio Urshela.

That sequence gave the Twins their first lead of the day at 1-0, and it also promoted Sox manager Alex Cora to give Diekman the hook in favor of Darin Gillies, who punched out the lone batter he faced to retire the side in the fourth.

Rich Hill took over for Gillies beginning in the middle of the fifth. Like Whitlock, the seasoned southpaw turned in a solid three-inning outing in which he kept Minnesota off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit, no walks, and three strikeouts on 42 pitches (27 strikes).

The Boston bats picked up Hill in their half of the sixth, with Jonathan Arauz ripping a leadoff single off Twins reliever Caleb Thielbar to kick off the inning. Arauz then advanced all the way to third base when center fielder Derek Fisher was unable to come up with a sharply-hit flyball off the bat of Enrique Hernandez.

Hernandez took second base because of the error and was pinch-ran for by the speedy Jarren Duran, who showed off his elite speed immediately when Rafael Devers lifted a 376-foot fly ball to center field. Fisher was able to come up with the ball this time around, but his momentum carried him away from the infield, which subsequently allowed Arauz to score from third and Duran to score all the way from second.

Devers’ rare, two-run sacrifice fly put the Sox up 2-1 as Hill continued to impress through the end of the seventh before being replaced by Hirokazu Sawamura an inning later.

Sawamura, on the other hand, struggled to find the strike zone on Sunday with only 16 of his 30 pitches going for strikes. The Japanese-born righty issued a leadoff walk to Daniel Robertson, which preceded a hard-hit double from Curtis Terry and RBI single for Jose Godoy to tie things back up at 2-2.

Another walk for Sawamura led to more runs crossing the plate, as Jose Miranda plated Terry on a softly-hit groundout and Trevor Larnach scored everyone by depositing a three-run home run 400 feet to give his side a commanding 6-2 lead.

After surrendering that towering shot, Sawamura was given the hook in favor of Brandon Nail, who got Fisher to fly out to Christian Arroyo — yes, Christian Arrouo — in right field for the final out of the frame.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Rob Refsnyder made things somewhat interesting by crushing his first home run of the spring off Twins reliever Jorge Alcala.

That cut Minnesota’s lead down to three runs at 6-3, but that would go on to be Sunday’s final score.

Some notes from this loss:

Christian Arroyo played three innings of right field on Sunday after coming on as a defensive replacement for Jackie Bradley Jr. in the middle of the sixth inning.

Red Sox pitchers were responsible for 50 of the 51 hardest-thrown pitches on Sunday, per Baseball Savant.

Next up: A day off

The Red Sox will enjoy their first off day of the spring on Monday. They will then travel to Bradenton to take on the Pirates at LECOM Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Boston has yet to name a starter for that contest, though right-hander Mitch Keller is slated to get the starting nod for Pittsburgh.

First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised, but only on AT&T SportsNet.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Rich Hill returns and Bobby Dalbec stays hot as Red Sox top Rays, 4-2, to improve to 6-0 this spring

The Red Sox are nearly a week into their Grapefruit League schedule and have yet to lose a game. They improved to 6-0 this spring with a 4-2 victory over the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Rich Hill made his 2022 debut against one of his former teams on Tuesday. Vying for a spot in Boston’s Opening Day starting rotation, the veteran left-hander scattered two hits and one walk to go along with two strikeouts over two scoreless innings of work.

Shortly after Hill retired each of the final three batters he faced, the Sox jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over the Rays in the third inning when a red-hot Bobby Dalbec scored Jonathan Arauz and Christian Arroyo on a two-run double to left field off reliever Adrian De Horta.

That paved the way for Garrett Whitlock to come on in relief of Hill beginning in the bottom of the third. Also making his first appearance of the spring, the righty escaped a bases-loaded jam in his first inning of work before stranding two more base runners in a scoreless bottom of the fourth.

Matt Barnes continued the trend of Red Sox pitchers making their 2022 debuts on Tuesday. Looking to re-establish himself as Boston’s closer, the hard-throwing righty sat down Curtis Mead, Yandy Diaz, and Ji-Man Choi in order in the fifth inning.

Non-roster invitee Taylor Cole followed suit by working around a bases-loaded jam of his own in the bottom of the sixth, while his catcher — Ronaldo Hernandez — drove in Christian Koss on an RBI single in the top of the seventh to give his side a 3-0 lead.

Geoff Hartlieb gave two of those runs back immediately when he served up a two-run home run to Ruben Cardenas a half-inning later, but outfielder Wil Dalton provided some insurance by leading things off in the eighth with a solo blast off Jack Labosky.

That sequence made it a 4-2 game for Austin Davis, who entered out of the Boston bullpen in the eighth inning and closed things out to record the save and secure a two-run win for the Red Sox.

All told, it was another decent day for Boston pitching. Despite allowing 10 hits and issuing five walks as a team, six different Sox pitchers (Hill, Whitlock, Barnes, Cole, Hartlieb, and Davis) combined to surrender just two runs while striking out 12.

Dalbec, meanwhile, is batting .444/.500/1.222 with one double, two home runs, seven RBIs, and two runs scored through his first four games (10 plate appearances) of the spring.

As they improve to 6-0 this spring, the Red Sox have outscored their opponents 34-11 in Grapefruit League play thus far.

Next up: Winder vs. Eovaldi

The Red Sox will take on the Twins in the third installment of the Chairman’s Cup. Boston currently leads Minnesota two games-to-none heading into Wednesday’s contest at JetBlue Park.

Nathan Eovaldi will make his second start of the spring for the Sox, and he will be opposed by fellow right-hander Josh Winder for the Twins. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be televised on NESN.

(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox make signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official

Moments before shocking the baseball world by acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe, the Red Sox made the signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official on Wednesday night.

Both veteran left-handers had agreed to one-year deals with the Sox within the last 24 hours, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier first reported the agreement with Hill and Sportsnet’s Chad Day first reported the agreement with Paxton.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Hill will earn a base salary of $5 million in 2022, though his deal includes up to $3 million in performance bonuses based on number of innings pitched.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, is coming off a solid 2021 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) spanning 158 2/3 innings of work between the Rays and Mets.

The Milton, Mass. native will be preparing to embark upon his 18th big-league season in 2022 after signing with Boston as a free agent for the seventh time in his career.

“This guy is one of the best competitors in our game,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Hill. “It seems like he doesn’t age. Wherever he goes, it seems like he has success. Not only is he a good pitcher, but he’s a tremendous clubhouse presence. To be able to add a veteran like him who has shown the ability to pitch here and shown the ability to pitch in different roles, really to take on whatever is thrown at him.”

Paxton, on the other hand, is more of a unique signing since the Red Sox added the lefty on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2022 that also includes a two-year club option that could take the total value of the contract up to $35 million, per Speier.

More specifically, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that if the Sox pick up Paxton’s option, he will be guaranteed $26 million in 2023 and 2024 ($13 million in each season). If they decline, he can either exercise a one-year player option for 2023 at $4 million or turn it down and become a free agent himself.

In other words, Paxton’s contract comes with $10 million in guaranteed money (a $6 million base salary in 2022 and the $4 million conditional player option) that can max out at $35 million over three years when taking performance bonuses and escalators into account.

After spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Yankees, Paxton re-joined the Mariners in 2021. But he suffered an elbow injury in his first start of the year that would ultimately require season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.

Because Paxton is still recovering from that elbow procedure, the Red Sox do not anticipate that the 33-year-old to return to the mound until some point during the second half of the 2022 campaign.

“He’s not going to be ready for Opening Day, but we do expect to see him at some point during the second half of the season if all goes well, ” said Bloom. “We’re hopeful that when he does come back, he’ll be able to give us a lift. Before injuries really started to impact his career, this guy was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League.”

Going back to his first season with New York, Paxton put up a respectable 3.82 ERA and 3.86 ERA with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks across 29 starts and 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2019.

“If he gets back to that, he could provide a huge boost for us in the second half,” Bloom said of Paxton. “We also have the ability, if all goes well this coming year, to control him for a couple years after that. And that was a big part of this deal for us: adding someone who might be able to help us down the stretch this coming year, but then also be a big part of what we’re doing in the years ahead.”

Within the last week, the Red Sox have added three starting pitchers (Hill, Paxton, and Michael Wacha). While the goal of doing this may have something to do with filling the void left by Eduardo Rodriguez, it also allows Boston to bolster its rotation depth going into 2022.

“To add to this group that we have, to have the depth to make sure we’re not putting too much on our young guys, and that we have enough capable major-league pitchers to get through the marathon of a season, it’s huge,” Bloom said.

Indeed it is.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year deal with veteran left-hander Rich Hill, per report

The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year contract with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is still pending a physical, but figures to increase the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, has been linked to the Red Sox for quite some time as this will mark the seventh instance in which he has signed with Boston as a free agent.

The Milton, Mass. native was originally drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 amateur draft out of the University of Michigan, but has spent parts of four major-league seasons (2010-2012, 2015) with the Sox.

After garnering interest from the Red Sox last winter, Hill ultimately inked a one-year, $2.5 million pact with the Rays in February and was later traded to the Mets in July.

Over 32 appearances (31 starts) between both clubs, the veteran southpaw posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks across 158 2/3 innings of work in 2021.

The 158 2/3 frames Hill threw this year marked the most he has accrued in a single season since 2007 (195 innings pitched), when he was an up-and-coming 27-year-old with the Cubs.

Per Baseball Savant, the 41-year-old lefty operates with a six-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, curveball, sinker, cutter, changeup, and slider. He held opponents to a .111 batting average against with his sinker, a .167 batting average against with his changeup, and a .176 batting average against with his cutter this year.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds, Hill — who is represented by ACES — will be embarking upon his 18th big-league season come Opening Day 2022.

By reportedly agreeing to a deal with Hill just hours before Major League Baseball’s impending work stoppage, the Red Sox have shown that adding starting rotation depth has been a priority so far this off-season.

In the wake of losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers via free agency, Boston has gone out and signed right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal and veteran left-hander James Paxton to a one-year, $10 million deal that is pending a physical and includes a two-year club option within the last four days.

Like Wacha and Paxton, Hill is somewhat of a lottery ticket given his age and injury history. Still, Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. must have felt that the potential rewards outweighed the risks, as Hill is once again slated so suit up for his hometown team.

A product of Milton High School, Hill was used as a reliever in his first stint with the Red Sox from 2010-2012, pitching to the tune of a 1.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36:15 over 40 total relief appearances spanning 31 2/3 innings pitched.

In his second stint with the club, Hill came aboard by signing a one-year deal out of Indy Ball in August 2015. He then proceeded to put up a 1.55 ERA and 2.27 FIP in four starts (29 innings pitched) and leveraged that impressive stretch into a major-league deal with the Athletics. Since then, he has pitched for the A’s, Dodgers, Twins, Rays, and Mets.

Of all the teams Hill has pitched for throughout his lengthy career, though, he credits the Red Sox for being one of the best at doing what they do.

“The Red Sox do things right,” Hill told Speier last month. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Are Red Sox open to reunion with Rich Hill?

The Red Sox appear open to a reunion with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In a recent conversation with Speier, Hill “suggested that he’s been in touch with members of the Red Sox this offseason, just as he was as a free agent last offseason.”

While noting that these conversations have mainly been social exchanges, Hill did hint that the Sox do seem interested in his services.

“There is an interest, without a doubt,” Hill said. “There’s a need on the other end. [But] the need for starting pitching is very apparent throughout the league — not just in Boston. It’s also many other clubs that need it.”

Hill, 41, became a free agent earlier this month after splitting the 2021 season with the Rays and Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP with 150 strikeouts and 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 158 2/3 innings pitched between both clubs.

As noted by Speier, this marked Hill’s healthiest season since he was a member of the Cubs in 2007, which had been the last time he eclipsed the 150-inning plateau prior to this year.

A native of Milton, Mass., Hill has spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Red Sox, with his most-recent stint with the team coming in 2015. To date, he has signed with Boston as a free agent on six separate occasions (June 2010, December 2010, December 2011, February 2014, March 2014, August 2015).

By Opening Day next spring, Hill will have turned 42 years old. Still, the veteran lefty expects to pitch in the majors in 2022 and wants to do so for a contender.

But Hill, who still lives in Milton, also expressed interest in living closer to home, making it seem as though the Red Sox would be at the top of his destination wish list for that very reason.

“The Red Sox do things right,” said Hill. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

Along those same lines, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting rotation help this winter after Eduardo Rodriguez left in free agency to ink a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

Hill, who is preparing to embark upon his 18th major-league season, would not command the sort of pay day other free agent starters — such as Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, or Kevin Gausman — are seeking.

Last winter, the Sox were in talks to bring Hill back for the 2021 campaign, though those conversations dissipated once chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. brought in Martin Perez and Garrett Richards by early February.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Michigan product signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays, thus closing the door on any shot of a reunion with his hometown team.

This time around, however, a reunion could take place if the Red Sox believe Hill can contribute as a starter in 2022 and Hill, in turn, feels like the Red Sox give him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

How Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo became a better major-leaguer because of veteran teammates like Mitch Moreland, Rich Hill

Alex Verdugo’s inaugural season with the Red Sox ended with the outfielder finishing 12th in American League MVP voting.

Well before that, though, the 24-year-old had gotten off to a rough start with his new team.

After being left off the Sox’ Opening Day lineup last July, Verdugo struggled to the tune of a .231/.286/.231 slash line with no extra-base hits, no RBI, two walks, and sevens strikeouts through his first eight games and 28 plate appearances of the year.

The centerpiece for Boston in the five-player trade with the Dodgers that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, the former top prospect had grown frustrated with his performance, and he let out that frustration in a demonstrative way; much to the chagrin of his veteran teammates — like Mitch Moreland.

“Every at-bat it felt like I was going into the tunnel and hitting something or throwing a helmet down,” Verdugo said recently on the Baseball Tonight podcast with ESPN’s Buster Olney. “And Mitch kind of made a side comment, like ‘Shoot. Seeing him act like that has got me exhausted.’ Like I’m tiring him out just watching what I’m doing. And I sat back on that. I thought about it, and I went over there and I apologized to the team.

“This anger — this stuff that I show — I want you guys to know that it’s from a good place,” he added while recalling how he apologized. “It’s because I’m a competitor. I’m so used to competing.”

Since being selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Sahuaro High School, the Arizona native has always had a fiery personality.

It’s a personality and a way of going about things that may rub others the wrong way, but Verdugo has managed to succeed at every level he’s played at while still maintaining that boisterous edge to him.

That trend of performing to a high level continued for Verdugo over the summer and into the early stages of the fall. From August 4 through the end of the 2020 season, the left-handed hitter slashed .320/.378/.514 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and four stolen bases over his final 45 games (193 plate appearances) of the year.

“I felt like towards the middle and end of the season, I was a lot better,” said Verdugo. “I was a lot better. I was able to handle it more. It was kind of cool, Jason Varitek got a nice little punching bag right in the tunnel. So we’d go down there and I got a nice little inflatable pitching bag with my Verdugo jersey on it. No. 99.”

Verdugo will look to carry over the individual success he enjoyed in 2020 into 2021 for a Red Sox team that figures to be much more competitive than they were last year.

The 6-foot, 205 pounder is no stranger to playing for a team with postseason aspirations, and one of his former teammates on that particular team — Milton’s own Rich Hill — believes that Verdugo can take that next stop with the Sox.

The 41-year-old Hill, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, was Verdugo’s teammate with the Dodgers for parts of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 campaigns.

While the veteran left-hander was one of those who initially took issue with the way Verdugo went about his business upon getting called up by the Dodgers in 2017, he also realized — and still realizes — the potential the young outfielder has to do special things on the field.

“When I heard the trade happened, I had gotten the chance to talk to a few people in Boston and just said, ‘Hey, you guys got a really good player here, and not just any player,'” Hill told Olney. “I think he can be a perennial All-Star and be a standout in Boston because of his ability to put the bat to the ball and consistently create damage with runners on and/or start a rally.

“Again, it’s the way he goes about playing the game,” the former Red Sox hurler added. “I think of players right off the top of my head who play hard. Like a Chase Utley for example, a Clayton Kershaw, a Dustin Pedroia. You look at Jose Abreu with the White Sox. I put Alex in that category. It doesn’t have to be just position players, right? I mentioned a few pitchers because when you go to the game and you buy the ticket, you want to see the intensity and the passion from the player — whether it’s the pitcher or position player.”

Pedroia, who retired from the game of baseball in February after spending 14 big-league seasons with the Sox, was teammates with Hill for parts of the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015 seasons.

“Dustin kind of rejuvenated me and got more out of myself when I saw his effort and what he brought on a daily basis and what consistent intensity looked like ,” said Hill. “That was something I saw and was like, ‘Wow, if this guy is showing up at 1 o’clock and he’s ready with a full batting practice uniform on, it wasn’t fake. It was real.’ It was every single day.

“And that’s what Alex has,” he continued. “Alex has that every single day, it’s the same mentality. It’s the passion, the joy, the intensity, the love for the game. However you want to put a title over it, he has that for the game. So he’s going to do fine here in Boston.”

Based off his style of play, Verdugo is someone who feeds the energy of the crowd regardless of which ballpark he is at.

After going through an entire season with no fans in the stands in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Verdugo is relishing the opportunity to play in front of a crowd –albeit a reduced one — at not only Fenway Park, but venues like Yankee Stadium as well in 2021.

“I think the fans are a big part of the game,” he said. “I miss that interaction where they’re talking their smack. They’re letting you have it. Especially when I’m in New York. If I’m in the Yankees’ stadium, I want that, man. I want it. I know you got to be careful what you ask for, but for me, I love it. I really do.”

(Picture of Mitch Moreland and Alex Verdugo: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)