If you asked Rich Hill throughout the majority of the offseason which team he was going to land with, his answer would have been pretty clear cut: the Red Sox.
"Oh, yeah. Very much so," Hill told WEEI.com when asked if he thought his free agent landing spot would be Boston. "But then there was no movement and as a player, or anybody waiting for an opportunity, you can’t wait around. I honestly thought talking to the front office, talking with the training staff and everything like that I really thought that was going to be an opportunity. Especially being home. Look, being 41 and I wanted to stay on the East Coast and I wanted to be close to home, all of which were the primary objective. There was no better place than Boston.
"I thought … I was like, ‘OK, something should happen this week or the next couple of days.’ But nothing really happen."
We're talking November. We're talking December. We're talking January. That was the Canton's native mindset.
According to Hill, even after lefty Martin Perez inked his deal with the Sox on Jan. 16, the talks kept going. They were conversations that continued all the way up to the Red Sox finally finalized their rotation with the acquisition of Garrett Richards in early February.
Finally, with the window for a Red Sox reunion closed, Hill agreed to terms with Tampa Bay on a one-year, $2.5 million deal on Feb. 12.
"They were still in talks saying there was a real opportunity (in Boston)," remembered the 41-year-old lefty. "I talked with Alex (Cora) and he expressed his interest in wanting me to come and sign there. To me it was very real. I think to him it was very real. There’s only so much in your court you can control so you just kind of go with what you hear. Obviously, having the relationship with Kevin (Cash) and knowing what the Rays have been able to do here in the last decade and a half with the success they have had is not by accident. You come in here and you see how they operate."
The signing has been a good one for the Rays, with Hill totaling a 3.64 ERA over 14 starts. Although his last two outings has seen him allow four runs in each, the southpaw did go on a run from April 26 until June 5 in which he gave up just five runs in 45 2/3 innings (0.99 ERA).
Now Hill gets to face the team he thought would be his own a few months ago, starting against the Red Sox Wednesday night.