Miller looking to improve in bullpen role

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Miller looking to improve in bullpen role

Since he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina by the Tigers with the sixth overall pick in 2006, Andrew Millers potential has tantalized many observers, evaluators, and pitching coaches. But the results seemed to stay just out of the reach of delivering on that potential.

Prior to 2012, Miller had appeared in 96 major league games, making 66 starts, for the Tigers, Marlins, and Red Sox, posting a record of 21-29 with a 5.79 ERA. In 2011, his first season with the Sox after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Marlins, he made 17 appearances, with 12 starts, posting a record of 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA.

But Miller, who turns 28 in May, started the 2012 season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring that allowed him to make just three appearances in spring training. He appeared in 12 games, making one start, for Single-A Greenville and Triple-A Pawtucket before being activated on May 6. But what the Sox could expect from the 6-foot-7 left-hander was unknown.

Except for his debut season of 2006, when he made eight relief appearances for Detroit, 2012 was the only one of his seven major league seasons in which he worked strictly out of the bullpen. The results? A record of 3-2 with a career-best 3.35 ERA in a career-high 53 games. His 1.190 WHIP, 6.2 hits-per-nine innings ratio, 4.5 walks-per-nine, 11.4 strikeouts-per-nine, 2.55 strikeouts-to-walks, and opponents average of .194 were all also the best of his career.

Miller held opponents hitless in 31 outings, scoreless in 43, and had 22 perfect outings. Lefties hit just .149 (13-for-87) against him, with a .245 on-base percentage, and .184 slugging percentage, while righties hit .263 (15-for-57) with a .373 OBP and .456 SLG.

He stranded 39 of 46 inherited runners, a success rate of 84.8 percent, fifth-best in the American League, and retired the first batter he faced in 45 of his 53 appearances, giving up four hits and four walks with 16 strikeouts.

Perhaps, in his seventh big league season, Miller had found his role.

I think for me last year was a learning experience and I enjoyed it, Miller said. It wasnt the season we envisioned, but for me it was a step forward, I think. Whatever they ask me to do, Ill be ready, and I think theres certainly things I can improve upon. Thats that Im going to show and prove that I have, that Im ready to do that. Whatever role they put me in, I want to show that Im ready to go.

For some pitchers, giving up on the idea of being a starting pitcher can be difficult. But, while Miller believes he is still capable of starting, for now thats not the issue.

I dont know if Id say starting is my preference, Miller said. My preference is to be good at this level. I think that's kind of overlooked a lot of times. Im not in the position to demand or ask for anything. I just want to be part of the team and help us win a lot of games. Whatever role they ask me to do is fine. I think clearly its to be in the bullpen again this year.

If at some point down the road that starting opportunity comes up again, Ill have to evaluate it and see whats best for me or the team, or whatever. Whatever side of the court the balls in, I dont know. But in reality its something that Im still capable of doing. I enjoy doing it. I think that, you know, I certainly struggled there for a couple of years but I think Im going in the right direction. Its something I could get back to.

Miller, who began throwing a few weeks ago and said he is on schedule for reporting to Fort Myers, is not quite a lefty specialist despite his numbers against left-handers last season. But, of his 53 appearances, he entered to face one batter in 13. Of those 13 appearances, 12 were against left-handed hitters. Miller recorded outs in 12 of those 13 instances, including four strikeouts and a double play. The only non-lefty he faced in those instances was the Rays switch-hitting pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad, who singled off Miller on July 13.

With fellow lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Mortensen also expected to be in the Sox bullpen in 2013 Miller is not sure what his exact role will be this year. The Sox have added relievers closer Joel Hanrahan and right-hander Koji Uehara to the bullpen mix this offseason.

We certainly at times showed that we got some pretty arms down there last year, Miller said. I think if were healthy, hopefully Andrew Baileys back and ready to go. We know he can do it. I think weve got the pieces down there, now its a matter of us doing our job and I think were capable of it. Im excited to meet the new guys and work in with them. Hopefully everybody shows up ready to go because I think we can be really good.

And, continuing his progression last season, there are things he still wants to work on.

I think last year was the first time Ive really had a role in the bullpen, he said. So some things I did a good job of, coming in and getting the first guy out or dealing with inherited runners. But I think Id like to get righties out at a better clip and obviously I can still cut down on some walks. I had some walks at the end of the year that kind of hurt me. I think you can always improve in those departments. But those really stood out to me last year and I think I know how to fix them and thats my goal, to fix them.

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

McAdam: Price not exactly hitting stride with postseason on horizon

NEW YORK -- The division title was there for the taking Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. When you've won 11 straight and steamrolled every other team in the division, what's one more?

One too many, apparently.

The Red Sox' 6-4 defeat to the New York Yankees postponed the Champagne party for at least one night. In and of itself, that's not a huge concern. The Sox' magic number remains one with five games to play and the club's epic hot streak had to come to an end eventually.

A better night by either David -- Ortiz or Price -- might have resulted in corks popping and on-field celebrations.

Ortiz was 0-for-5 and stranded a total of seven baserunners. When he came to the plate in the top of the ninth against Tyler Clippard with two outs and two on, it almost seemed scripted.

Here was Ortiz in his final Yankee Stadium series, about to inflict one final bit of misery on the rival Yankees with a three-run homer in the top of the ninth.

Talk about drama. Talk about one more famous, final scene.

Alas, Ortiz took some feeble swings and swung through strike three for the final out. Not even Ortiz, for all his clutch performances, can conjure a game-winner on-demand every time.

A far bigger concern was the work of Price. Perhaps the best thing than can be said of him for now is that he almost certainly will not have to face the Yankees again this season, against whom he's compiled a gaudy 7.89 ERA this season.

More troubling, though, is that Price is not exactly hitting his stride as the postseason appears on the near horizon. In his last three starts combined, Price has pitched 19 1/3 innings and allowed 27 hits and 14 runs.

That isn't the line of someone at peak form at the right time. To the contrary, after a run of outings in which it again appeared Price had figured everything out, he's regressed in his last three.

Most troubling Tuesday was a repeated inability to turn back the Yankees after his team had pulled close on the scoreboard.

Price spotted the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and the Sox finally scored twice in the top of the 6th to close within one at 3-2. But Price quickly gave anther run back in the bottom of the inning.

Then the Sox scored two more times in the seventh to tie things at 4-4. . . but Price gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the inning.

"Very frustrating,'' sighed Price. "It's something I talk about all the time. It's a very big deal. And it's something I feel like I've struggled with this entire year. Whenever you're going good, it's something you're doing very well. And whenever you're going bad...you get a lead, give it right back. . . that's tough.''

It also doesn't portend well for the postseason, where Price, as you may have heard, has a spotty track record.

With some strong starts in the final few weeks, he could have reached the playoffs with both momentum and confidence.

Instead, he's got one more start -- Sunday -- to straighten things out.

Ortiz? His postseason bona fides are set.

Price, meanwhile, has no such reservoir of success upon which to draw. And starts like Tuesday's only reinforce the doubts.

 

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz goes 0-for-5 in loss to Yankees

NEW YORK -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees:

 

QUOTES:

"I went 0-for-5 today, so I ain't got (anything) to talk about.'' - David Ortiz after turning around and seeing a small army of reporters waiting for him in front of his locker.

"To have a chance to clinch the division for us here (and come up sort), it's not acceptable. If my offense scores me four runs, I feel like I should be able to go out there and win.'' - David Price.

"The bottom line story to this one was (Price) mislocating within the strike zone.'' - John Farrell.

 

NOTES:

* Boston's season-best 11-game win streak was snapped with the loss.

* David Price took his first loss since Aug. 7.

* Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season.

* Aaron Hill contributed his first pinch-hit homer in his career.

* Mookie Betts saw his streak of reaching base in 38 straight road games stopped.

* Dustin Pedroia posted his third straight multi-hit game.

* For the 20th time this season, Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a three-hit game.

* In his last 12 games, Andrew Benintendi has eight extra-base hits.

* Hill's pinch-hit homer was the third by the Red Sox this month.

 

STARS:

1) Tyler Austin

The rookie first baseman snapped a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run homer and also added two more hits in three at-bats.

2) Gary Sanchez

The first-year catcher continues to amaze, hitting his 20th homer in only his 51st game, sending the Yanks out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning.

3) Luis Cessa

Cessa took a big step forward from his last start against the Red Sox by keeping them scoreless through the first five innings before allowing two runs in the sixth.