Spring Recap: Aaron Hill looks ready for opening day, but Blue Jays lose to Red Sox

By Thom Tsang

Going into spring training, one of the biggest questions marks on the Blue Jays club was second-baseman Aaron Hill; would he be able to come back from a miserable 2010 season? How much did the injury play into his performance? The level of concern was rightfully elevated when Hill started off camp with a quad injury, which resulted in him missing several weeks of training games. Hill’s return last week was closely watched, as both he and Lind are expected to be important cogs in the middle part of the Jays batting order this season. With a 2-hit performance in a rain-shortened loss to the Red Sox today, Hill may well have answered most of the questions about his readiness.

After recording 2 hits through his first 7 at-bats, Aaron Hill has found his groove over the last few games. He lined two doubles today, one of them scoring an RBI with Adam Lind on base. Hill made it to second base on both hits going full-speed, a good sign that he has recovered from the sore quad, and he is now hitting .471 in his shortened spring (17 ABs). There were concerns about Hill potentially not getting enough at-bats to be ready for opening day in Toronto on Friday, but by the looks of it, he’s heating up at just the right time. He hasn’t homered this spring yet, but has been lining the ball hard when he gets contact – this is maybe the most encouraging adjustment that he’s making from his fly-ball approach last year, which led to 26 home runs but totally killed his line-drive rate and batting average. If Hill can just worry about hitting the ball hard first, the power should take care of itself – he should still get plenty of home runs over the left field wall at the Rogers Centre this season.

There’s not too much else of note offensively for the Blue Jays in today’s game – it was played under the specter of rain the entire time, and was delayed once after the 5th innings. The Jays managed to scatter just 6 hits before rain caused the umpires to call the game in the middle of the 8th with the Red Sox up 3-2. The Jays’ two runs came off of Lind, Hill, and Rivera, but it wasn’t enough as reliever Carlos Villanueva gave up a 2-run shot to Jeremy Hazelbaker in the 7th, which put the Red Sox ahead for good.

Before that happened though, Kyle Drabek was on the mound through 5 solid innings, as the rookie gave up just a run over 5 hits, striking out 5. He continued the standards in control shown my the Jays starters this week, walking nobody, and had thrown just over 60 pitches by the end of the 5th.  Drabek’s fastball sat at the mid-90s, and he was not showing signs of fatigue; the short rain delay after that likely caused the Jays to call it a day for Drabek. Although the outing was shorter than expected (something of an ongoing theme this week), it was a positive to take into the regular season as Drabek prepares to pitch in the second game of the season.

There are just two games to go before the end of the Grapefruit season, and the Jays will send Brett Cecil for his final tune-up tomorrow against the Minnesota Twins. There have been reports about Cecil mysteriously losing some velocity off his fastball since his last start, so we’ll see if he has been successful in recovering it tomorrow.

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