Boston Red Sox

Miller keeping his eye on the prize with Red Sox

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Miller keeping his eye on the prize with Red Sox

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Andrew Miller got to the big leagues two months after being selected sixth overall in the 2006 draft. It didn't take.

The next time Miller gets to the major leagues -- and he's realistic enough to know that's unlikely to take place next month, when the Red Sox choose their 25-man roster -- he'd like to be more permanent.

Once on baseball's fast track, Miller is willing to slow down his development path in exchange for long-term stability.

And he's willing to wait.

Even before this spring, Miller took a circuitious route to get to the Red Sox. After being traded from Florida in exchange for Dustin Richardson last November, he was non-tendered a month later before re-signing with the Red Sox in December.

He had offers from Washington, Pittsburgh, Texas and others, and chose the Red Sox, although they were offering a minor-league deal and guaranteeing nothing.

"I didn't come here to make the Opening Day roster,'' said Miller, "though obviously, you won't hear me complain if that were to happen. Somewhere else I probably would have been either assured of competition or assured of a job right now. But long term, I came here to get better, to accomplish what I think I can and be part of the Red Sox organization.''

Aleady with his third organization -- drafted by Detroit, then traded to Florida -- Miller's inconsistency was on display Sunday when he came on in relief of Daisuke Matsuzaka with two out and one on in the sixth. He promptly allowed the next six St. Louis Cardinals hitters he faced to reach base without recording the elusive third out.

"That was kind of a reminder, coming in out of the bulllpen, how important it is to attack the strike zone,'' said Terry Francona.

That inning was evidence that Miller remains a work in progress. Prior to that outing, however, Miller had looked sharp, scored against in just one of his six outings.

And the Sox aren't about to make any judgment based on a single Grapefruit League outing. They've signaled that they're in this for the long haul. In fact, they proposed an unusual stipulation in his contract to provide other teams with a disincentive in the hopes that it would enable him to remain with the Red Sox even if he had to be exposed to waivers.

The deal called for Miller, who is out of options, to make 1.2 million in the majors, with an option for 2012 that would jump to 3 million if he got claimed by another team.

(Industry sources said Sunday that the contract may not be approved because of the unusual clause, and that both the commissioner's office and the Major League Baseball Players Association were investigating further).

"We knew what they wanted to do,'' said Miller about agreeing to the unique structure of the deal, "and I knew if I wanted to come here, that was the best situation for me. I wanted to make sure I was going to be here and that it was part of the plan. It wasn't like, 'I'm going to Boston'' and then you don't make the team and now you're in the places where you didn't want to be.

''The idea was to be part of this organization long-term, not short-term. It made sense to me. It accomplished what I wanted and what the team wanted. I think that's what you look for in a contract, where both sides are happy. It was a creative way to try make sure that this lasts longer.''

Like other teams, the Red Sox were intigued by Miller's potential. Lefties who are 6-foot-7 and can throw in the mid-90s with a slider which, at times, can be unhittable are not common. So the Sox pounced.

The problem, though, is that Miller's long, lanky frame makes it easier for him to fall out of his delivery and have difficulty commanding his stuff. If the Sox can fix his mechanics at Pawtucket, it will have been worth the time and money invested.

It helped Miller to know that his former University of North Carolina teammate Daniel Bard spoke glowingly about the organization.

"I certainly talked to Daniel about it,'' he said. "When they traded for me, I knew from the conversations we had, they were excited to have me as part of the organization. It seemed like a good fit.

"You won't hear anyone tell you it isn't a first-class organization. I had multiple conversations with people and it just seemed like such a good place and such a good place for me to come. I haven't done what I wanted to do but if I'm going to figure it out, what better place than here?''

But first "here" is likely to be Pawtucket, where it's unclear whether he'll be deployed as a starter -- where he can have the most impact long-term -- or in relief, where he might harness his command and contribute sooner.

Miller has already had his baseball baptism, which was a bit of "too much, too soon.'' This time, the next time, he wants it to be real.

"I'll never complain about being called up early to the big leagues,'' Miller emphasized. "The opportunities that Detroit gave me, I wouldn't trade that for the world.

"I cherish those opportunities. I pitched in a pennant race in 2006 and the next year, we were in the race and I came up.

"It's an experience that, hopefully when I get back to the leagues, it won't be like I'm 25 and just being called up for the first time. I got all the first-time stuff out of the way -- the nerves and that kind of stuff out of the way.''

He has the luxury -- in terms of age and finances -- to be patient.

"Fortunately for me,'' he said, "I made quite a bit of money from the draft a 3.55 million signing bonus, so it's not like I've been starving on a minor-league salary the last couple of years. For me, it's more about being the major league pitcher I think I can be and what I envision for myself.''

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

Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

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Red Sox rally for 5-4 win over Reds, extend AL East lead

CINCINNATI - Rafael Devers hit a three-run homer Friday night, and the Boston Red Sox extended their AL East lead to four games by overcoming Scooter Gennett's fourth grand slam of the season for a 5-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

Boston added to its lead with the help of the Yankees' 8-1 loss at Toronto. The Red Sox have won 12 of 15, keeping the Yankees at bay while moving a season-high 25 games over .500 (89-64).

Their AL Cy Young Award winner is still struggling heading into playoff time.

Rick Porcello gave up Gennett's fourth grand slam - a Reds' season record - in the first inning. He lasted a season-low four innings, turning a 5-4 lead over to the bullpen. Porcello has lost 17 games - most in the majors - after winning 22 last year along with the Cy Young.

Part of Porcello's problem has been a lack of run support. Boston has been blanked while he's on the mound in 10 of his losses. This time, the Red Sox got him off the hook, overcoming Gennett's career-high 27th homer with the help of Devers' three-run shot off Sal Romano (5-7).

The Red Sox are last in the AL with 159 homers.

Left-hander David Price (6-3) pitched 2 2/3 innings and contributed a single, bringing the Red Sox to the front of the dugout for a celebration. Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth for his 34th save in 38 chances. He hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances.

Gennett was claimed off waivers from Milwaukee late in spring training. He has provided some of the Reds' best moments in an 88-loss season, including a four-homer game on June 6. His homer off Porcello ended the Red Sox' streak of 26 straight scoreless innings.

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

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Drellich: Pomeranz, league's second-best lefty, knows how to be even better

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz may not actually be the No. 2 starter for the Red Sox in this year’s presumed American League Division Series. Maybe the Sox will mix in a right-hander between Pomeranz and Chris Sale.

Still, everyone knows which pitcher, in spirit, has been the second-most reliable for the Red Sox. A day after Chris Sale notched his 300th strikeout and on the final off-day of the regular season, it’s worth considering the importance of the other excellent lefty on the Sox, and how much he’s meant to a team that’s needed surprise performances because of the lineup’s drop-off.

Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Pomeranz is the second-most valuable lefthanded starter among those qualified in the American League (you know who's No. 1). He's one of the 10 best starters in the AL overall.

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Pomeranz, 28, was a first-round pick seven years ago. But he didn’t exactly blossom until the last two years. He has a 3.15 ERA in 165 2/3 innings. His next start, if decent, should give him a career-high in innings after he threw 170 2/3 last year.

Pomeranz is a 16-game winner, just one win behind Sale. The value of wins and losses is known to be nil, but there’s still a picture of reliability that can be gleaned.

Is this the year Pomeranz became the pitcher he always envisioned he would be?

“I don’t know, I mean, I had a pretty dang good year last year,” Pomeranz said, referring to a 3.32 ERA between the Padres and Sox, and an All-Star selection. “I think these last two years have been kind of you know, more what I wanted to be like. But I still, I don’t think I’m done yet, you know what I mean?”

Most pro athletes say there’s always room to improve. Pomeranz, however, was able to specify what he wants. The focus is on his third and fourth pitches: his cutter and his change-up. 

“My changeup’s been really good this year,” Pomeranz said. “That’s something that still can go a lot further. And same with my cutter too. I still use it sparingly. I don’t think me just being a six-inning guy is the end of it for me either.

“You set personal goals. You want to throw more innings, cover more innings so the bullpen doesn’t have to cover those. Helps save them for right now during the year.”

Early in the year, Pomeranz wasn’t using his cutter much. He threw just nine in April, per BrooksBaseball.net. That led to talk that he wasn’t throwing the pitch to take it easy on his arm. He did start the year on the disabled list, after all, and cutters and sliders can be more stressful on the elbow and forearm.

That wasn’t the case.

“The reason I didn’t throw it in the beginning of the year was because half the times I threw it went the other way,” Pomeranz said. “It backed up. Instead of cutting, it was like sinking or running back. I mean, I pitched [in Baltimore] and gave up a home run to [Manny] Machado, we were trying to throw one in and it went back. So I didn’t trust it.

“Mechanical thing. I was still trying to clean my mechanics up, and once I cleaned ‘em up and got my arm slot right, then everything started moving the way it was supposed to and then I started throwing it more.”

Pomeranz’s cutter usage, and how he developed the pitch heading into 2016, has been well documented.

The change-up is more of an X-factor. He threw five in each of his last two starts, per Brooks, and it’s a pitch he wants to use more.

“It’s been good,” Pomeranz said. “I think I could throw it a lot more and a lot more effectively, and ... tweaking of pitch selection probably could help me get into some of those later innings too.”

Well, then why not just throw the change more often? Easier said than done when you’re talking about your fourth pitch in a key moment.

“I throw a few a game,” Pomeranz said. “Sometimes you feel like you don’t want too throw it in situations where you get beat with your third or fourth best pitch. I mean it’s felt — every time I’ve thrown it it’s been consistent. It’s just a matter of, it’s something me and Vazqy [Christian Vazquez] talk about, too." 

(When you hear these kind of issues, which most pitchers deal with, it makes you appreciate Sale’s ability to throw any pitch at any time even more.)

Speaking on Wednesday, the day after Pomeranz’s most recent outing, Sox pitching coach Carl Willis said he thinks the change-up’s already starting to have a greater presence.

“He’s kind of always had a changeup, and he hadn’t had any trust or conviction in that pitch,” Willis said. “I was really excited last night that he used the changeup more. He threw it. He doubled up with it on occasion. Something that’s not in the scouting report.

"It’s his fourth pitch and he seldom threw it in a game and he’s in a situation where, OK, the change-up’s the right pitch, but location of whatever I throw is going to outweigh [selection]. Now he’s starting to gain that confidence [that he can locate it]. 

“I think that’s going to make him an extremely better pitcher. I thought it was a huge factor in his outing last night. Because he didn’t have his best velocity. He really did a good job of changing speeds with the changeup, and obviously with the curveball and being able to give different shapes of the pitches.”

The Sox already have the best left-hander in the AL, if not anywhere. The AL's second-best southpaw happens to pitch on the same team, and has tangible plans to be even better.

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