EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 24, 2010

Give Do-it-all Bill Hall the 10th player award

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

BOSTON — Forget about Manny Ramirez, Jason Bay, Hanley Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, J.D. Drew and Carl Crawford.

None of those star players have hit as many home runs as Red Sox utility man Bill Hall, who has blasted 17 in limited playing time this summer.

In the process, Hall has played every single position besides catcher and first base.

Yes, he has even pitched. He tossed a perfect inning of relief May 28 when the Red Sox lost 12-5 to the Kansas City Royals.

Call him Do-it-all Billy Hall. He deserves this team's 10th player award.

Hall, who was not in the starting lineup yesterday against Seattle, is hitting .240 with 17 homers and 40 RBIs.

For Hall, this season has been a satisfying one because he has been able to rediscover his swing — the swing he used back in 2006 when he smashed 35 home runs, drove in 85 runs and hit for a .270 batting average. He said a serious ankle sprain in 2007 caused him to develop some bad offensive habits, some of which he is just correcting now.

"It's been a fun year," Hall said. "I'm enjoying it. Obviously, I'm just continuing to try to help this team win and hopefully I can maintain what I am doing.

"And I love playing baseball here," Hall added. "This is a great city. This is a baseball city and everybody loves it and obviously it's a great team."

Hall has cranked a homer in five of his past 12 games and nine times in the past 23 games in which he has recorded an at-bat.

"We've kind of had him sitting down toward the bottom of the order and when you (a pitcher) makes a mistake, he hits it a long way," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "If you make your pitches, you might get him, but if you make a mistake, he has a way of (hitting) ... some big home runs for us."

Mike Cameron also played with Hall in Milwaukee. Cameron added about Hall: "The guy is working hard to get back to trying to be an everyday player like he was in the past. I think that's the most important thing. And he's getting a great opportunity on a great stage. I think it's been a blessing to have a guy like that because he's been able to go and fill in for myself, (Dustin) Pedroia, Adrian (Beltre) a couple of times (and Marco) Scutaro. He plays all the outfield positions and the guy can even pitch."

The injury

Hall, then with Milwaukee, leaped against the center field wall at Pittsburgh on July 5, 2007, trying to catch a long drive off the bat of Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit.

The ball landed over the wall for a homer. Hall, meanwhile, landed hard on his right ankle, which ended up sprained.

Hall said that injury led to his offensive decline since July 2007.

"I hurt my ankle pretty seriously, and I tried to come back way too fast," Hall said. "At that time, in Milwaukee, we were a really good team and we were still trying to make the playoffs. And I put more pressure on myself to try to come back and help my team. And it was more detrimental to me.

"I had to change my swing because I just couldn't use the same mechanics," he added. "In doing that I got myself into a lot of bad habits. I stopped using my backside. I was basically getting myself out before the ball even came."

Hall said that once the ankle healed he did not revert back to the mechanics that were working for him in 2006. He continued the bad habits unconsciously.

Decline in production

Hall was hitting .271 with 9 homers and 38 RBIs before he sprained his ankle in 2007. He finished that year with 14 homers, 63 RBIs and a .254 average.

His average and power numbers then fell significantly each of the next two seasons.

He hit .225 with 15 homers and 55 RBIs in 2008, then batted .201 with 8 homers and 36 RBIs between playing for both Milwaukee and Seattle in 2009.

He actually was demoted to Triple-A Nashville for a period of time in '09.

"I felt like time was running out on me so it was important to get back to the player I thought I could be," Hall said.

Hall said it took him a while to figure out what was actually going on with his swing.

"I worked hard this offseason to get back to where I was," he said. "My swing has changed from the beginning of this season to this point right now. Every day I'm getting back to where I need to be.

"My stance — if you look at it in '06 and you look at it now — it's pretty similar with my swing mechanics before the pitch and during the pitch and my swing itself. I knew I needed to start using my backside and not come up and off the ball. And that was what I was doing. I was pushing off my backside because I couldn't put any weight on it."

Hall does it all

Hall didn't have much hope of playing regularly when he first learned he was traded here. But he has received considerable playing time because of injuries. He has appeared in 92 games.

"It's been an unfortunate and fortunate situation for us," Hall said. "It's unfortunate that we've had all these guys hurt but for me personally, it's been fortunate that I've been able to get some consistent at-bats and I've kind of got myself in a groove and helped this team win."

Hall said being a utility/back-up player is tough.

"Check the stats of most utility players," he said. "Their stats kind of go up and down by the year. ... It can be so inconsistent if you never find that groove. If you're playing once every week or once every week and a half, it can be tough on you. Just look around the league — (utility) guys have up and down years. But like I said, I've been able to get some consistent at-bats and get myself in a groove and get back on track."

Hall has done much better since he has played more regularly. He hit .192 in April when he received just 26 at bats. But he has since raised his average 48 points.

"I feel like I'm putting myself in a position to be the player I was before," he said.

DID YOU KNOW?

1. Bill Hall appeared in an episode of "The Young and the Restless" in 2007 when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers. He appeared on the soap opera with three other then-teammates: J.J. Hardy, Jeff Suppan and Chris Capuano.

2. He has played every position but catcher and first base this year. "I love playing baseball and that's the most important part," he said. "I love being on the field. I don't care where it is."

3. Hall's favorite player growing up was Ozzie Smith.

4. Hall's favorite position is shortstop but he said his best position right now is third base.

5. He pitched in high school and threw near 95 miles per hour, according to MLB.com.

The Ultimate Utility man

Bill Hall is the ultimate utility man. He has played everywhere but first and catcher. Here are his defensive stats this year:

Position Games Played Starts Totals chances Errors

2B 40 31 154 5

3B 2 1 8 1

CF 7 6 19 1

LF 39 27 53 0

P 1 0 0 0

RF 6 4 7 2

SS 6 3 12 1