Bill Hall surprising even himself
Red Sox supersub making the most of his opportunities
TORONTO -- The Laser Show is days away from returning. Dustin Pedroia is scheduled to relaunch on Tuesday, 7½ weeks after he fouled a ball off his left foot, fracturing it.
Bill Hall understands, then, that his days of showing up at the ballpark and finding his name on the Boston Red Sox lineup card, especially at second base, are numbered. But in the meantime, he's launching balls at a rate he hasn't known since he was the young infielder hitting twice as many home runs as Pedroia in his best season.[+] EnlargeTom Szczerbowski/US PresswireWith 15 home runs in 234 at-bats, Bill Hall is hitting long balls at an impressive rate.
If Pedroia has the Laser Show, then what do you call it when Hall hits home runs in each of his first two at-bats, as he did Wednesday? That gives him seven in his past 48 at-bats, a rate of one home run per 6.8 at-bats. Toronto's Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 35 homers, is averaging one per 11.3 at-bats.
"I don't have a name," Hall said after his two long balls, a single and four RBIs helped the Red Sox coast to a 10-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, who have dropped two straight to Boston after their three-game sweep of the Rays.
"I haven't gotten back to that status. I don't deserve to put a name tag on anything I do. I'm trying to grind this out, to have as much fun as possible. I'm just enjoying helping this team win on a daily basis.
"Obviously, Pedey is one of our most important leaders, and he's fun to be around. Ask Pedey what he wants to call it. I'll take it."
Hall now has 15 home runs in 234 at-bats. He seems a lock to hit more home runs in a season in which he has fewer than 350 at-bats than any Sox player except for Ted Williams, who hit 29 as a 41-year-old in 1960, his final season. Only two players, Dick Gernert (1956) and Don Baylor (1987), have hit as many as 16 with fewer than 350 at-bats. Bernie Carbo hit 15 in 1975.
Hall's teammate last season in Seattle, Adrian Beltre, hit his 21st, a three-run shot that knocked Jays starter Shawn Marcum out of the game with no out in the fifth, down 8-1. It can be of small comfort to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik that Seattle's leading home run hitter, Franklin Gutierrez, has 10. And the Mariners are paying more than $7 million of Hall's contract to the Red Sox.
But the Sox would admit they did not see this coming from Hall, who after hitting 35 home runs for Milwaukee in 2006, hit a total of 37 in the next three seasons combined, including a career-low eight last season.
Neither did Hall himself.
"The past two years haven't been very fun for me," he said. "I lost a lot of confidence. A lot of things were going on. I knew what kind of player I felt like I was, but when it's not showing up on the field, you start to doubt yourself."
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Hall, whose big year with the Brewers came when he filled in for an injured J.J. Hardy at shortstop, kept being moved around the diamond, in part because of his defensive shortcomings, in part because of some of his teammates, including outfielder Ryan Braun. The Brewers made Hall their center fielder, then traded for Mike Cameron. When Braun showed he couldn't play third, Hall was moved there. When he wound up in a platoon with Russell Branyan, he asked to be traded. It didn't happen right away, but last August the Brewers dealt him to the Mariners.
"I think I got a shot of life when I went to Seattle," Hall said. "They let me play. My swing wasn't where it is now, but I was starting to get on the right track when I got hurt there. But that helped me a lot coming over here."
With injuries to both Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury this season, Hall has played a lot more outfield than expected. Then, when Pedroia went down, he took over at second base, though he is now sharing time there with Jed Lowrie, who is better defensively.
"I knew I had to play well again or possibly be in Triple-A next season if I didn't, or not get signed at all," said Hall, who is just 30. "There are a lot of guys with a lot of talent sitting at home right now. There was a little bit of fear in my heart. I knew it was time to come out and show what kind of player I am."
With the Red Sox drawing within 3½ games of Tampa Bay for the wild card despite the loss of slugging first baseman Kevin Youkilis, their time has come too, Hall said.
"We know it's our time to strike," he said, "if we're going to strike. We've maintained for a long time. Now it's time for us to step up and get hot, win some ballgames, get back in this thing and win it."
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.
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