With Miller done, Sox must find bullpen help

With Miller done, Sox must find bullpen help
July 8, 2013, 10:00 pm
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SEATTLE -- Most of the injuries incurred by the Red Sox this season have been of the nagging variety, with players missing days, or, at maximum, weeks to recover.
     
Andrew Miller, apparently, will be a different story.
     
The Red Sox announced that Miller suffered ligament damage to his left foot Saturday night in Anaheim, necessitating surgery that will very likely cost him the remainder of the season.
     
No date has been scheduled for the surgery. General manager Ben Cherington indicated that Miller would see a second opinion on the injury later this week, but the team seems resigned to losing Miller.
     
"Very (tough loss for us)," said Farrell, "given the way he's pitched, the importance of that power lefthander in the bullpen. You're always hopeful (that he could recover without surgery) and until the MRI was performed and the results (determined, we were). But that's where we are."
     
"Obviously if (he's out for the year), that's a tough blow," said GM Ben Cherington. "I feel bad for him because he's worked extremely hard finding a niche for himself and has been a big part of our pen obviously. But these things happen and no matter what the resolution is later this week, from what I understand, it's something he's going to recover from fully. Worse case, we have a real good pitcher in our pen next year."
     
Miller had pitched in 37 games with a 2.64 ERA and was averaging just over 14 strikeouts per nine innings. He had been unscored upon in 17 of his last 21 outings.
     
He had held opposing hitters to a .217 batting average, and lefties were hitting just .155.
     
The sixth overall pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, he was later dealt to the Florida Marlins. The Red Sox obtained him from Florida in exchange for Dustin Richardson after the 2010 season and after an inconsistent 2011 season, he blossomed last year thanks to a change in his delivery that allowed him to show better control.
     
"There's many examples of lefties coming along in different points in their career," said Farrell, "and he was another example of that, where it was happening a little bit later than first anticipated. But because of role and the change in his delivery, he was well on his way to becoming a dominant lefthanded reliever."
     
The loss of Miller for the long-term leaves the Sox with just one lefty in the bullpen for now (Craig Breslow) as Franklin Morales deals with a left pectoral muscle pull.
     
Some late-inning righthanded relievers - led by Andrew Bailey and Koji Uehara -- have been effective against lefties, but Miller's loss will almost certainly force the Sox into obtaining a lefty at the trade deadline.
     
"We'll look at every internal option," said Farrell, "and if there's something that makes sense, I'm sure we're open-minded to it."
     
The Sox have internal discussions about utilizing Rubby de la Rosa and Brandon Workman -- both currently starters at Pawtucket -- out of the bullpen, but neither has big league experience and each is righthanded.
     
"We'll just have to see," said Cherington. "We've had guys step up all year when the opportunity presents and we just need that to continue. We'll see what other opportunities come our way later this month, but I expect that what we'll see more than anything is opportunities that go to guys who are here and hope that guys take advantage of it."
     
Even before Miller's injury, the Sox were scouting bullpen options on the trade market and were already linked to Chicago White Sox lefty Matt Thornton.
     
"If you lose a guy," said Cherington, "he's got to be replaced somehow so we still think we have some internal options we can consider. We may take a look at some of those over the course of the next few weeks. But we've got to have an open mind. Losing Andrew was not something we were planning on, so we'll have to react and find a solution."
     
What makes a deal tough is the prohibitive cost of experienced bullpen help, coupled with the volatility of performance.
     
"It's tough," acknowledged Cherington. "The most efficient way to do it, I guess, is to ignore it completely, but then you run the risk of not having enough guys out there. You have to strike the right balance in the middle, I guess and that's our job to try to do that. We can't say 'never' to a trade for a reliever just because it's hard to predict. We've to evaluate each possibility for whatever it it.
     
"But that lends to the point that if you can find answers internally, that's always a better way to go."