DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Red Sox reliever Rich Hill made an emotional return to the mound Friday against the Blue Jays, throwing a perfect inning in his first appearance following the tragic death of his newborn son.
Hill's progression this spring was delayed by a late arrival to camp following his infant son's recent death. But Hill impressed Boston manager John Farrell with how quickly he prepared himself after reporting and wound up recording three straight outs in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium during Boston's 3-1 win.
Afterward, Hill couldn't hide his emotions when asked what was going through his mind on the mound.
"It was tough, but it was good," Hill said, pausing to compose himself. "It was good to get out there and pitch. ... I remember the 3-2 count, and before you'd [think], 'I've got to make the pitch, I've got to make the pitch.' And it just comes to you where you're just -- you're playing baseball. This isn't something that you were dealing with a few weeks ago.
"So it was kind of a sense of ease just to go out there and play the game the way that we were meant to play it as kids. So that was kind of the emotions and the feelings that were out there today."
Added Farrell: "He's done everything he could to get back in a game. I'm sure in his mind just to get back out on to the field and compete hopefully gives him a little peace of mind. Still, we're going to reserve any judgment and any kind of evaluation until we get more appearances. But more than anything, he's out there and he's in the flow of things."
Hill said he had to fight the desire to do too much and work too hard to catch up with the rest of Boston's pitchers, but he was pleased with the way he threw Friday. Hill got Dioner Navarro on a popout, induced a flyout to center field from Moises Sierra and struck out Ryan Goins looking. The lefty admitted he didn't have his best stuff, but that might have made the results even more encouraging.
"You really had to focus on feeling the ball come out and trusting it and just executing the pitch," Hill said. "It was a great day because you look at it and you take it as, 'Wow, you had 'B' stuff today but you were able to go out there and execute and get guys out.' That was exciting for me."