Starting for hometown club special for Hill

Starting for hometown club special for Hill

BOSTON -- When Rich Hill was released by the Nationals on June 24, it could have been a low point. Instead, it gave Hill the chance to go back to his roots.

On Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field, the lefty will start for the Red Sox, his hometown team, in his first Major League start in six years.

Hill went through a series of arm problems from 2009-11, and he seemed destined to spend the rest of his career in the bullpen. Hill didn't necessarily even dispute the notion.

"When I was in the bullpen and had a pretty good gig, I thought that would be it and I'd stay and I'd continue on being successful as a reliever," said the Milton, Mass., native. "I didn't really see getting back into starting and didn't really know if I would be able to handle the workload of starting."

After getting released by the Nats, Hill started experimenting a bit on his own.

"There were some opportunities to relieve, but after a couple of weeks of being at home and not jumping on anything, I threw a couple of longer bullpen [sessions]," Hill said. "I threw a couple of 75-pitch bullpen [sessions] and was able to bounce back pretty good from those. After that, I was like, 'Let's go play Independent ball and start. That's the only opportunity I would get. There's no affiliated club that would release somebody to have me come in and start."

After two dominant starts with the Long Island Ducks, the Red Sox signed Hill to a Minor League deal, and he went 3-2 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts.

The Red Sox are going to a six-man rotation so that rookie lefties Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens can get more rest. With Clay Buchholz and Steven Wright unavailable, that has created an opportunity for Hill, who has gone back to a traditional over-the-top release after going sidearm as a reliever.

This is Hill's third tour of duty in the Red Sox's organization, but his first as a starter.

"It is special," said Hill. "It's special to be home, it really is. Somebody asked me if it was improbable. I may have said yes, but that was really my goal -- to get back and to start."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.