Nobody was asking Rich Hill to be an ace. There wasn't even a desire for the 42-year-old to considered living life anywhere near the top of the Red Sox' 2022 starting rotation.
He was going to be a fairly cheap (one-year, $5 million) option to fill out a group that was supposed to be anchored by the presences of Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, Nick Pivetta and Michael Wacha.
Yet, here we are.
The lefty is doing what he did seven seasons before, sprinting across the regular season's finish line while putting Major League Baseball on notice that the Rich Hill Story isn't quite done.
Back in 2015, it was three starts in September and one more in October that added up to a 1.55 ERA over 29 innings. It revitalized a career that has included 157 starts since, combining for a 57-37 record and 3.36 ERA.
Wednesday night offered Hill's latest reminder: Six innings, nine strikeouts and not a single run. It was his 25th start of the season, second-most on the Red Sox despite missing a month.
"I think a lot of the game is making adjustments," Hill said after the Red Sox win, one which improved the team's record to 13-12 when the southpaw pitches. "It’s not so much to stay relevant but it’s, how are you going to continue to keep getting hitters out and refining your craft. I think that’s one thing that I’ve always done is continue to evolve and make adjustments with the game. If your fastball maybe doesn’t have as much giddy-up on it or your curveball might not be breaking as much, now you can have another pitch (the cutter) in there that gets you back in the counts that you can start hitters off with. You can move it from backdoor to backfoot on righties. You can run it across the plate on lefties. Again, it’s something that everybody in this game, in order to stick around, you have to continue to make adjustments throughout your career and this is just another one of those."
Hill has every intention of continuing his baseball-playing career, hoping the Red Sox are team he pitches for in 2023. But there are a lot of balls in the air. First will be a determination if he gets the call to participate in the World Baseball Classic for Team USA. Then comes a decision of whether or not his season will begin in April, or perhaps halfway through the schedule allowing for three months of family time and the choice of MLB contender.
But where Hill has landed with one start to go in the 2022 season has to be of great satisfaction to both the player and his team.
It has been simply another memorable chapter for an already unbelievably unique story.
"He’s a good athlete. He’s in great shape," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
"That’s why I keep saying he can keep pitching until they decide he’s done, injury aside. He was able to bounce back from the injury quicker, probably than others. And his willingness to go out there and compete and not take one pitch for granted is what makes him special."