DETROIT -- When Red Sox lefty Rich Hill underwent Tommy John surgery last June, the assumption was that he wouldn't pitch in the Majors again for about a year.
However, Hill seems to be ahead of that projection and could be pitching again for Boston in the relatively near future.
The reliever pitched a perfect inning for Class A Greenville on Saturday, striking out the side. He will pitch again for Greenville on Tuesday and perhaps move to Double-A after that.
"Yeah, very positive," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Three strikeouts. Can't get more positive than that."
Andrew Miller also had a scoreless inning for Greenville in that Saturday game, allowing two hits and hitting a batter while striking out two.
Miller will pitch for Greenville on Monday and probably advance to a higher affiliate from there.
Aaron Cook, who could factor into Boston's rotation at some point, reeled off seven strong innings (no earned runs) for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.
"Yeah, he had a very good sinker, dominated with ground-ball pitches and you saw the numbers. Four hits and a run, couple of strikeouts, [he] did good," said Valentine.
Cook has a May 1 opt-out clause in his contract that he might exercise if the Red Sox don't promote him to the Majors by then.
Punto leads off as Valentine shuffles lineup
DETROIT -- After scoring a total of two runs in the first two games, both losses, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine shuffled his lineup on Sunday afternoon for the finale of a three-game series vs. the Tigers.
There were three reinforcements -- Nick Punto in at third, Darnell McDonald in left and Kelly Shoppach behind the plate -- all making their first starts.
But there were also some interesting slot adjustments. With Punto inserted into the leadoff spot, Jacoby Ellsbury moved to second. Dustin Pedroia (third), Adrian Gonzalez (cleanup) and David Ortiz (fifth) also moved down one spot from where they were in the first two games.
Despite what it might look like on the outside, Valentine said the lineup was in no way an over-reaction to the events of the first two games.
"No, no, it was kind of a planned routine," Valentine said. "Today we're getting some guys their first starts of the year. I think we'll be able to score some runs with it. I hope so. I was trying to get everyone a start and I didn't want to do it right after the first game. Now everyone [from the bench] will have a start."
Kevin Youkilis and Cody Ross, who both went hitless in the first two games, got a respite. So, too, did catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Why Punto in the leadoff spot?
"Just want to see what it looks like," Valentine said. "See if it gives us a little spark. He's a sparking kind of player who battles every at-bat."
It was also a chance to get McDonald a start, coming off his red-hot Spring Training.
While McDonald figures to get most of his starts against lefties, Sunday's game was against righty Max Scherzer.
"Most of those at-bats in the spring were against right-handers, so I figure if he's ever ready to start against a right-hander, it's now," Valentine said.
Beckett's thumb responds fine after shaky start
DETROIT -- A day after getting shellacked by the Tigers in his first start of 2012, Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett reported no ill effects from the ailing right thumb that bothered him at times during Spring Training.
"I just got through talking to him," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He says a little mentally bruised but physically fine. He just needs a little touch."
Beckett was pounded for seven runs and five home runs over 4 2/3 innings on Saturday.
His next start will be in the home opener on Friday afternoon against the Rays.