Andrew Miller may soon join Red Sox' rotation

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Andrew Miller may soon join Red Sox' rotation

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Only recently, the Red Sox' starting rotation seemed to be stabilizing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka may have been lost for the remainder of the season thanks to Tommy John surgery, but John Lackey has returned from a DL stint to win his last two starts and the venerable Tim Wakefield, essentially taking Matsuzaka's spot, has pitched well enough that the team is 4-2 in his outings.

By Wednesday, however, things could change again.

Left-hander Andrew Miller has a June 15 opt-out in his deal, meaning he can become a free agent if the team doesn't add him to the major league roster.

It's possible that Miller, who is scheduled to start Tuesday for Pawtucket, could force the Red Sox' hand and be added to the rotation, sending Wakefield back to the bullpen.

A former first-round pick in 2006, Miller has always had terrific stuff, but his control since first getting to the big leagues months after being drafted has been, to be kind, inconsistent.

Lately, however, Miller has been far more around the strike zone. Over his last two starts for Pawtucket, Miller has thrown 13 innings, striking out 12 and walking none. Dating back to his last three starts, Miller has walked just two in his last 20 innings.

In 12 games, Miller is 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA. In 60 13 innings, he's struck out 51 and walked 34. Opponents are hitting just .175 against him.

"Even earlier in the season,'' noted Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen, "it was command (within the zone) rather than control. He got in a lot of deep counts and he wasn't winning those. Now, he's putting the ball right where he wants. The continued development of his delivery is allowing him to be more consistent within the strike zone.''

Miller is tall (6-foot-7) and lanky, and like Randy Johnson and other tall, gangly pitchers, there are, at times, too many moving parts to Miller's delivery. But he's been using his athleticism to repeat his delivery more consistently.

The stuff -- a fastball that is regularly 95-96 mph, and a sharp slider -- has never been in question. In his last start, last Wednesday against Norfolk, Miller recorded double-digit groundouts, evidence that he his two-seam fastball is helping him be more efficient and economical.

"There's been steady improvement over the last three or four starts,'' said Hazen. "What he's shown us in that span is very impressive.''

Credit for Miller's improvement is shared by major league pitching coach Curt Young -- who worked with Miller during spring training -- Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur and roving pitching instructor Ralph Treuel.

Officially, the Red Sox haven't heard anything further from Miller or his agent regarding Wednesday's deadline. Privately, they're braced for Miller to force their hand.

Said one personnel evaluator who has seen Miller pitch more than once this season: "He's a left-hander who's throwing 96. I've got to believe that there's got to be one team out there willing to offer him a spot in their rotation.''

That's all Miller needs to prompt the Red Sox to add him to their 40-man roster and promote him to Boston. Coincidentally or not, Miller is now lined up perfectly with Wakefield, meaning that, if the Sox promote him Wednesday, Miller would be lined up to pitch when Wakefield's turn next comes around: Sunday at home vs. Milwaukee.

Things could get complicated if Miller joins the Red Sox, then, for whatever reason, has to be sent back to Pawtucket. The 26-year-old is out of options, meaning he would have to be exposed to waivers before the Red Sox could outright him back to Triple A.

(During the off-season, the Red Sox attempted to structure a unique contract, whereby any team claiming Miller would be forced to pick up a 3 million option for 2012 -- his major salary for 2011 would be a more modest 1.3 million -- but there were objections from the commissioner's office and the Players Association and the language had to be re-written to fall in line with proper contractual guidelines.)

In a perfect world, the Red Sox would keep Miller at Triple A and allow him to pitch more innings in a controlled environment.

But the fact that Miller is forcing their hand can be viewed positively, too, since it's an indication of how well he's been throwing, and by extension, the interest other teams likely have in him.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

Red Sox' seven-run rally in seventh keys 9-4 win over Rangers

BOSTON -- Chris Sale was perfectly happy to sit back and watch the Red Sox hitters do the work this time.

Sale cruised into the fifth inning, then was rewarded in the seventh when the Boston batters erupted for seven runs on their way to a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night.

Sale (5-2) struck out six, falling short in his attempt to become the first pitcher in baseball's modern era to strike out at least 10 batters in nine straight games in one season.

But he didn't seem to mind.

"It was fun," said the left-hander, who received more runs of support in the seventh inning alone than while he was in any other game this season. "You get run after run, hit after hit. When we score like that, it's fun."

Dustin Pedroia waved home the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch, then singled in two more as the Red Sox turned a 3-1 deficit into a five-run lead and earned their third straight victory. Sam Travis had two singles for the Red Sox in his major league debut.

"I was a little nervous in the first inning," he said. "I'd be lying to you guys if I said I wasn't."

Mike Napoli homered for Texas, which has lost three of four to follow a 10-game winning streak.

FOR SALE

Sale, who also struck out 10 or more batters in eight straight games in 2015 with the White Sox, remains tied for the season record with Pedro Martinez. (Martinez had 10 straight in a span from 1999-2000.)

After scoring four runs in support of Sale in his first six starts, the Red Sox have scored 27 while he was in the game in his last five. He took a no-hitter into the fifth, but finished with three earned runs, six hits and a walk in 7 1/3 innings.

"Guys pulled through for me when I was probably pretty mediocre," he said.

NO RELIEF

Sam Dyson (1-5) faced seven batters in relief of Martin Perez and gave up four hits, three walks - two intentional - and a wild pitch without retiring a batter.

"Martin threw the ball really well and I came in with two guys on and couldn't get an out," Dyson said. "Sometimes they hit them where they are, and sometimes they hit them where they aren't."

Asked if he felt any different, he said: "Everything's the same.

"If I get my (expletive) handed to me, it's not like anything's wrong," he said. "Any more amazing questions from you all?"

SEVEN IN THE SEVENTH

It was 3-1 until the seventh, when Andrew Benintendi and Travis singled with one out to chase Perez. Mitch Moreland singled to make it 3-2, pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge singled to tie it and, after Mookie Betts was intentionally walked to load the bases, Moreland scored on a wild pitch to give Boston the lead.

Pedroia singled in two more runs, Xander Bogaerts doubled and Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Dyson was pulled after walking Chris Young to force in another run.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx got Benintendi to pop up foul of first base, but Napoli let it fall safely - his second such error in the game. Benintendi followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 8-3 before Travis was called out on strikes to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Rangers: 2B Rougned Odor was shaken up when he dived for Betts' grounder up the middle in the third inning. He was slow getting up. After being looked at by the trainer, he remained in the game.

Red Sox: LHP David Price made his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket, allowing six runs - three earned - seven hits and a walk. He struck out four in 3 2/3 innings, throwing 89 pitches, 61 for strikes, and left without addressing reporters. 3B Pablo Sandoval also played in the game, going 2 for 4 with two runs.

"He felt fine physically," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, who added he would talk to Price on Thursday morning to determine how to proceed. "We had a scout there who liked what he saw."

UP NEXT:

Rangers: Will send RHP Nick Martinez (1-2) to the mound in the finale of the three-game series.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-3) looks to snap a personal two-game losing streak.

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

David Price dodges media after second rough rehab start

If only David Price could pitch as well as he dodges the media.

The Red Sox lefty bailed on a typical post-start media session with reporters in Pawtucket on Wednesday, after his second minor league rehab outing in Triple-A was another dud.

As Price comes back from a nondescript elbow injury, difficulty retiring minor league hitters doesn't combine well with difficulty facing questions. He sat in the mid-90s in his second rehab start with Pawtucket, but allowed six runs, three earned, in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.

The PawSox were at home at McCoy Stadium against Triple-A Louisville, a Reds affiliate, and Price heard some heckling. Postgame, he wanted to hear nothing, apparently.

Per CSNNE’s Bill Messina, who was on site in Pawtucket, the media was waiting outside the clubhouse for Price, as is standard. 

PawSox media relations told the media to go to the weight room, where Price would meet them. As media headed that way, PR alerted reporters that Price was leaving and did not want to talk. Media saw a car leaving, but there was no interview.

On the mound, Price’s velocity is there, but the command is not. The Red Sox would be unwise to bring back Price before really two more minor league starts — one to show he can do well, another to show he can repeat it.

Price’s ERA in two starts for Pawtucket is 9.53. He’s gone 5 2/3 innings and allowed six earned runs, while striking out eight and walking two overall.