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Second base no longer second rate

Second base no longer second rate
There may be myriad reasons to explain why the Blue Jays are off to such an outstanding start.

There's the resurgence of corner infielders, Scott Rolen and Lyle Overbay.

There's the emergence of two young sluggers, Adam Lind and Travis Snider.

There's the surprising work of the unheralded starters and then, of course, there's the return to the lineup of a healthy second baseman, Aaron Hill.

"You never take things for granted," Hill said of his four months on the disabled list last season.

"It's just the fact that you forget how easily things can be taken away. So you go through something like that, and I like the fact that I can look back at it and remind myself and just be thankful I'm doing it again."

There were some who said after all that time off due to concussion, Hill could return to his 2007 form, when he hit .291 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs in 160 games. He has, thus far, proven his detractors wrong and is in the mix of a stunning group of second basemen plying their trade in the AL this season.

You can start with defending MVP Dustin Pedroia, then the Yankees' Robinson Cano, Rangers' young slugger Ian Kinsler, reliable O's second sacker Brian Roberts and Hill. Unsung but talented are guys like Placido Polanco (Tigers), Jose Lopez (M's), Alexei Casilla (Twins), Howie Kendrick (Angels), Mark Ellis (A's), Asdrubal Cabrera (Tribe) and Aki Iwamura (Rays).

Yet even with all that depth, Hill stands out.

"There are a lot of great players," Hill said admiringly of the class of his peers. "They're all doing a great job right now. Every one of those guys has the potential to be, first of all an all-star but also, like Pedroia was, MVP last year."

The Jays went six years post-Roberto Alomar without finding a reliable every day second baseman. They tried to fill the gap with Homer Bush, included in the David Wells deal with the Yankees.

That didn't work out.

Second base finally stabilized with the arrival of Orlando Hudson in the second half of '02, with O-Dog handling the position until 2005. He was traded to Arizona and that's when Hill took over.

"There was no pressure," Hill shrugged of his stepping in for the popular Hudson. "I was just thankful for having the opportunity. They traded him and said 'Go get 'em.' I wasn't going to let them down. I wanted to work hard and just show them that I know how to play the game."

Manager Cito Gaston never had a chance to see Hill play last year, having taken over from John Gibbons 22 days after Hill was placed on the disabled list.

But what he has seen from Hill this year has made a tremendous impression on him.

"All around, he's just been absolutely great for us," Gaston said. "As far as his offence and defence, he's just done a great job. I hope he continues to play that way and who knows? Hopefully he might get a little trip over to St. Louis."

That's the site of this year's All-Star Game. If Hill is ever going to break through and earn a position on the AL team, this could be the year.

But the competition will be fierce.

One from among Pedroia, Cano or Kinsler likely will win the fan voting, with another of those three guys getting the player's nod. That would leave it up to AL manager Joe Maddon of Tampa to recognize Hill's solid season.

"Of course it would be special," Hill said.

"Obviously it's a great honour. Playing in the big leagues is an honour in itself. It shows you've been working hard through your life, but for people to recognize what you're doing and say, 'Hey, you're one of the best.' That's pretty neat. That would be something pretty special."

At least for the month of April, as far as Jays' position players go, Hill would have to be considered the leader as the team's player-of-the-month.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 30, 2009

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