SEATTLE -- Aaron Hill's performance at the plate on Tuesday night in Seattle caught the attention of his manager.
Hill spent extra time this week working in the batting cage with hitting coach Dwayne Murphy. The veteran infielder made an adjustment with his mechanics by lowering his hands during the batting stance.
Farrell noticed the change from the dugout and thought it led to a more comfortable approach at the plate.
"Not only did it lead to the relaxation in his hands, but there was even a slight difference in his setup at the plate," Farrell said. "You could see the position in his hands be ... not as buried [and] tight to his right ear.
"The fact that they are away from his head a little bit more allows that path to be opened and not to be so tight across his shoulders."
Hill responded to the change by going 2-for-4 with a home run and tying a career high with four RBIs. The positive results likely will help Hill buy into the changes a little bit easier.
"The current results reinforce the change in physical positioning to what the mind is going through," Farrell said. "Just to relax him and let him believe in his abilities rather than pressing and thinking every at-bat is such great emphasis on each one, that it can compound and continue to build.
"Last night, he swung the bat from over the course of the entire game, as good as any game all year."
Hill entered Wednesday's series finale hitting .229 with six home runs and 45 RBIs.
McGowan solid in rehab outing at Double-A
SEATTLE -- Another chapter was added to the feel-good story of Dustin McGowan's possible return to the Major Leagues on Tuesday night.
McGowan tossed four scoreless innings in his second rehab start for Double-A New Hampshire. He allowed four hits and one walk while striking out three.
The native of Savannah, Ga., threw 38 of his 57 pitches for strikes.
"It's almost like as he got to Double-A against better hitters he has become that much more efficient," Blue Jays manager John Farrell. "The velocity is still there ... he was up to 97 yesterday, which more than anything, is just a measure from the physical side. Another encouraging and positive outing for him."
McGowan hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2008 because of a variety of shoulder injuries. The 29-year-old is now nine games into his rehab stint and has allowed just five earned runs while striking out 24 in 23 2/3 innings.
The most encouraging aspect for McGowan and the Blue Jays is that there haven't been any setbacks during his latest rehab. The soreness following each of his starts has been associated with the general wear and tear of a pitcher and hasn't been any cause for concern.
The former first-round Draft pick is expected to increase his workload to five innings during his next two starts for the Fisher Cats. It's still very possible McGowan will make his return to Toronto when the Minor League season wraps up in early September.
Farrell still isn't sure whether that work will come in the starting rotation or the bullpen, but he'd like to see the right-hander back with the Blue Jays.
"We haven't determined the role yet but we certainly want to continue his season," Farrell said. "Without stamping that as, yes, he's a guaranteed callup, we have every reason to want to see him back at the Major League level and see him against Major League hitters."
McGowan is 20-22 with a 4.71 in 75 appearances in the Majors. His best season came in 2007, 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA in a career-high 27 starts.
Mills on schedule for next turn in rotation
SEATTLE -- Left-hander Brad Mills will get at least one more start in the Blue Jays rotation.
Mills was roughed up for six runs in just three innings on Tuesday night in Seattle. He has now allowed 12 runs in his past six innings and has posted an 8.35 ERA in four starts.
The numbers might not be impressive, but Blue Jays manager John Farrell said the Arizona native will be back on the mound Sunday against the Athletics.
"With every outing, and it's not just with Brad, there's always internal discussion that goes on surrounding every game that we play," Farrell said. "But that hasn't led us to do anything that would make a change for Sunday."
Mills' margin for error on the mound is much smaller than other Blue Jays hurlers. His fastball typically tops out around 86-87 mph and that lack of high velocity means Mills has to rely on pinpoint command, and an effective array of offspeed pitches.
"That doesn't mean he can't be an effective Major League pitcher, it just means that he has got to be more consistent with his location," Farrell said. "Pitching ahead in the count and then he can expand the strike zone from there with his changeup and his curveball."
Right-hander Carlos Villanueva continues to go through his throwing program at the Blue Jays Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla. Villanueva is still limited to throwing off flat ground and there is no set timetable for his return. The 27-year-old has been on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 4 with a strained right forearm.
Veteran reliever Brian Tallet is expected to officially begin his rehab with Class A Dunedin on Thursday. The left-hander has been on the 15-day DL since July 4 with an intercostal strain.