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Bill Hall will do anything

02.21.10 at 2:37 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox acquired Bill Hall from the Mariners in the Casey Kotchman deal to add bench depth at just about every position on the diamond. For his part, Hall — who arrived at his new team’s minor league training facility on Sunday — has no reservations about embracing that role.

“I think I’m going to get more gloves sent in this year,” said Hall.

Hall grew up idolizing Ozzie Smith, and so shortstop became the position he embraced. He spent his entire professional life — including his most productive offensive years, including his 35 homer season with the Brewers in 2006 — at that station of the diamond. Yet now, after not playing at that position at all in 2009, he suggests that will be the position where he needs to send the most time in this spring training.

“I played every position except short and center last year,” said Hall. “I played left, right, third and second. I didn’t get to play center, but almost. I’m two years removed from center, so I can play there, too. … Shortstop is the position I haven’t played in the longest in the big leagues. I’m probably going to play most of my time there. I feel up to speed on the other positions.”

Hall said that he hasn’t played first base before, and that he has yet to hear from the Sox whether they want him to do so. Though he doesn’t have a first baseman’s mitt, Hall said that he is very much open to the possibility.

“I’m up for anything. I’ve played every position,” said Hall. “I feel I’m athletic enough to move over to first base and hopefully make it look like I’ve played there for some years.”

Of course, defensive versatility is only part of the package that Hall hopes to bring. The 30-year-old native of Tupelo, Miss. (birthplace of Elvis), has seen his average, OBP, slugging and OPS decline in each of the last three seasons.

He is coming off a campaign where he hit .201/.258/.338/.596 for the Brewers and, following a mid-year deal that represented a salary dump, the Mariners. That is a far cry from Hall’s monster 2006 campaign, when he hit .270/.345/.553/.899 with 35 homers for the Brewers.

Hall traces his offensive decline to an injury he suffered on July 5, 2007. He was playing his first season as a center fielder rather than a shortstop. On a deep fly by Ryan Doumit, Hall attempted the spectacular, trying to climb the wall to make a leaping catch. His elevation exceeded his expectations, and his timing was off on the landing, resulting in a crash on his right ankle. At the time, Hall was hitting .271/.336/.448/.784, and he had been trending upwards, hitting .325/.404/.563/.967 over the 22 games up to his injury.

When he came back, Hall suggests that his ankle was not ready. Without the support of his back foot, his mechanics came unhinged.

“In ’07 when I hurt my ankle and came back way too fast. I had to change the way I swung. It was my backside ankle and I couldn’t rotate down into the ball anymore like I could before I was injured,” said Hall. “I came in after hitting 35 homers, didn’t get off to the great start, got hurt, came back, and didn’t have the power I used to have. I was trying to create it instead of using my backside and letting it happen. I was spinning off the ball and trying to pull everything out and it turned into a lot of bad habits. I went back this offseason, changed all those, figured out what I was doing wrong, and go from there. …

“You ingrain something into your head on a swing, and it kept getting worse and worse. This offseason I went back to the drawing board, simplified my swing and started using my backside again. I haven’t hit the ball to right field like I can in almost two and a half years. Now I’m driving the ball to right and hitting the ball out to center again. When you can stay on the ball longer and guys are throwing sliders and things like that, it’s going to keep me on the ball longer and not lose the power I had.”

Hall recognizes that hitting will be the ticket to playing time. Depending on how the Red Sox roster aligns, he could represent the sole right-handed outfield bench option or the only backup capable of playing short and second.

“Everybody knows I can play some defense and everyone knows I can hit. I’ve just had some unfortunate incidents in the last couple of years and I feel like I’m pretty close back to where I used to be,” said Hall. “I don’t want to put a number on [the amount of playing time he wants]. Obviously the utility guy last year, Nick Green, obviously had a lot of at-bats and played a lot of shortstop last year. I don’t want to put a number on it. [Manager Terry Francona] just promised me plenty of at-bats and opportunities to prove I could be the player I want to be. That revolves around hitting.”

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