PAWTUCKET â€“ Tuesday morning saw a small group of PawSox players huddle around the clubhouse television as a contrite Ozzie Guillen attempted to move past the uproar he caused over supportive remarks the Miami Marlins manager made in reference to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Among those who sat and watched Guillen with great interest were Jose Iglesias and Luis Exposito. In fact, the pair stood side-by-side for roughly 10 minutes before Iglesias plopped himself down into a leather chair, his eyes clearly fixated on what Guillen was saying.
Given their heritage, Iglesias and Exposito each had a close, personal stake in how Guillen would address this hot-button topic. Both players make their offseason homes in Miami, the city that on Tuesday served as the eye of Hurricane Ozzie. Diving deeper, Iglesias is a Cuban defector while Expositoâ€™s family originally hails from the Latin country.
Naturally, each player understands that anytime someone speaks out regarding Castro, itâ€™s going to be a source of controversy, particularly with Cuban-Americans who are familiar with the political climate. To that end, Iglesias and Exposito understand why protesters waved American and Cuban flags outside of Marlins Park, site of where Guillen held a press conference that lasted just over an hour.
â€śIt is a big deal, but the good thing is that he (Guillen) recognized what he said and he apologized,â€ť said Iglesias. â€śSo many people die in the ocean trying to get [to the United States] because, Cuba, everybody knows how that is. There have been a lot of hard times there over the past 50 years.â€ť
Exposito, who had two doubles in Pawtucketâ€™s 8-0 whitewashing of Lehigh Valley, took it a step further, saying that Guillen should have thought twice before commenting to Time Magazine in the fashion he did that. Once the skipperâ€™s remarks regarding his â€śloveâ€ť and â€śsupportâ€ť of Castro were published, it set off a firestorm that culminated with Miami suspending Guillen for five games.
"It's a big deal because, in Miami, you've got the anti-Castro groups and all that. The guy, he's never done anything good for the country. He's never done anything positive for Cubans,â€ť said a brutally honest Exposito. â€śItâ€™s a touchy subject in that community. There are a lot of people who spite Castro. You donâ€™t want to bring his name up.â€ť
â€śI just feel like (Guillen) should have never said it. He probably would have been better off not saying anything.â€ť
Thereâ€™s a part of Exposito that feels sorry for Guillen and the ramifications heâ€™s now forced to deal with.
â€śYour whole family is going to feel it,â€ť said the catcher. â€śI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s happened or not, but it would (stink) if he started having protestors showing up at his house. He lives in Miami and maybe thatâ€™s why itâ€™s so tough for him and his family. I know heâ€™s managed Cuban players so itâ€™s probably affected them too.â€ť
Exposito then offered the perfect remedy to help Guillen get past this mess of his own creation.
â€śI think theyâ€™ll get over it, especially if he starts winning,â€ť he said. â€śIf he starts losing, theyâ€™re going to hound him.â€ť
Added Iglesias, â€śIt was a mistake that he recognized, but he apologized. He apologized to the Latin people. There's nothing more he can do.â€ť
The more you think about it, the fact that Rich Hill has been placed on a 30-day rehab time clock seems almost too good to be true.
Hill isnâ€™t even a year removed from undergoing Tommy John surgery, yet you would never know based on the major progress the lefthanded reliever has been able to make in a relatively short period of time.
Tuesday marked the 32-year-oldâ€™s second rehab appearance with Single-A Greenville, his one inning of work consisting of one run on two hits with two strikeouts. Hill launched his quest to return to the big leagues in most encouraging fashion Saturday, throwing 17 pitches en route to recording three caught-looking strikeouts.
Thereâ€™s cause for celebration regarding Hill, yet thereâ€™s also reason for Boston to exercise caution. There is no reason to rush him at this point, no matter how hard heâ€™s been able to downplay the notion that pitchers typically need a full year to recover from Tommy John.
As much as Hill is being viewed as a potential late-game weapon in Bostonâ€™s bullpen, he canâ€™t cross the finish line until heâ€™s met all the necessary checkpoints one must be aware of when coming back from major surgery.
â€śWith injuries like that, thereâ€™s a certain timetable and we donâ€™t to go before that time matures,â€ť said Red Sox minor-league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel, â€śbut Rich will let us know when heâ€™s ready.
â€śIt will probably be a progression where heâ€™s going to be pitching every two to three days with one or two inning stints â€¦ whatever is best suited for him not only logistically but weather wise also,â€ť said Treuel when asked about how the Red Sox plan to nurture Hill.
Treuel believes that when the time comes for Hill to join the Sox, the lefty will be close to the level he was at prior to getting shut down last June, his season done after nine games and eight shutout innings.
â€śWhen we lost him last year, that hurt the bullpen a lot,â€ť Treuel pointed out. â€śTo get him back and get him right, thereâ€™s no reason to think that he wonâ€™t be fine once he gets the opportunity again.â€ť