Hill returns to lineup after two-day layoff

Hill returns to lineup after two-day layoff

Hill returns to lineup after two-day layoff
SEATTLE -- Aaron Hill was back in the Blue Jays' lineup on Monday night following a two-game absence.

The veteran second baseman was given the weekend off to spend extra time working with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, and to receive a bit of a mental break.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said he kept an open line of communication with Hill throughout the process to make sure he understood the reason for the layoff.

"Any time he was not in the lineup, it was not something he learned when he arrived at the ballpark," Farrell said. "There were conversations each night prior to let him know the thinking.

"As much as anything, it was to give himself a bit of a breather. He's been trying awful hard. It was just a two-game stint, but he's our second baseman."

After a 1-for-4 showing in Monday's 6-5 loss to the Mariners, Hill is hitting .226 with five home runs and 41 RBIs. Those numbers come on the heels of a disappointing 2010 campaign in which he hit .205, though he did record 26 homers and 68 RBIs.

That prompted Toronto not to exercise a three-year extension worth $26 million prior to the start of the season.

The club could now opt to pick up an $8 million option for the 2012 season or a two-year, $16 million tag. If the Blue Jays don't pick up the contract, then Hill would be eligible for free agency at the end of the season.

It's a complicated situation, and the lack of job security could be taking its toll on Hill, but Farrell said the attention has to remain on the field.

"If that enters a player's mind, at some point he has to get back to focusing on a thing he can control," Farrell said. "Whether it's a player who has the potential to be optioned out in Spring Training or a situation [like Hill's], it's what you can do to influence the decision.

"At this level, that's sometimes the hardest thing. There's so much attention and publicity, surrounding factors at a given moment, that the ability to focus in the moment is the truest test."