Miller looking to improve in bullpen role

755880.jpg

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.

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Robbie Ross Jr. is getting elbow checked out

Red Sox reliever Robbie Ross Jr.'s tough 2017 has reached a potentially scary moment.

Expected to be the team's lead lefty out of the bullpen, Ross has twice been demoted and struggled in the majors. Now, he's on the disabled list at Triple-A Pawtucket with inflammation in his throwing elbow — a health situation that might explain why he wasn't pitching well in the big leagues.

The Red Sox expect to know more about Ross' situation later in the week.

Ross hasn't pitched in game for Pawtucket since he was most recently optioned. If the 27-year-old was indeed hurt in the majors, it's possible he could retroactivley wind up on the major league disabled list. Ross was demoted May 19, and is on the DL retroactive to May 25. 

Per BrooksBaseball.net, Ross sat at 93 mph with his fastball on May 12. He dropped down to 92 in the following appearance, and the next two outings were at 91 mph. He averaged 94 mph in 2016.

Ross had a 7.00 ERA in eight major league appearances this year, striking out nine and walking five in nine innings. He posted a 3.25 ERA in a 2016 season where he established himself as a key member of the 'pen.

Ross said he was shocked when he was demoted for the first time this year. 

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

ap_17148654925809.jpg

Robinson Cano, Guillermo Heredia homer in Mariners' 5-0 win over Red Sox

BOSTON (AP)  Christian Bergman rebounded from a miserable start with seven shutout innings and the Seattle Mariners halted Boston's season-high six-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Guillermo Heredia a solo shot for the Mariners, who averted a three-game sweep with just their second win in nine games. Seattle was shut out the first two games.

Bergman (2-2) allowed four hits, walked two and struck out two. He got a lot of help from his infielders when they turned a double play in each of the first four innings.

Three relievers completed the combined five-hitter, with closer Edwin Diaz getting the final three outs despite two errors by infielders.

Bergman was tagged for 14 hits and 10 runs over four innings in a loss his previous start.

Rick Porcello (3-6) gave up 11 hits, but only two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Seattle finished one off its club record for most double plays turned in a game.

After being shut out for the first 21 innings of the series, the Mariners moved ahead 1-0 in the fourth when Kyle Seager raced home from third after Porcello bounced a pitch that went over catcher Sandy Leon's right shoulder and onto the screen. Seager had doubled leading off and advanced on Danny Valencia's single.

Heredia homered over the Green Monster in the eighth and Cano sent his into the center-field bleachers an inning later.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Hisashi Iwakuma, on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, had another bullpen session Sunday because he wasn't happy with one a day earlier.

Red Sox: Manager John Farrell said 3B Pablo Sandoval, out since late April with a sprained right knee, will stay on his rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket to get his "timing going" with more at-bats.

ROSTER MOVES

Seattle sent Saturday's losing pitcher, RHP Rob Whalen, to Triple-A Tacoma and brought up RHP Ryne Harper from the same club.

The Red Sox also made moves with pitchers, sending Saturday's winner, lefty Brian Johnson, to Triple-A Pawtucket and promoting RHP Blaine Boyer for a day. Boyer will go back down Monday when ace David Price is activated.

Boyer made his Red Sox debut, retiring the only two batters he faced.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Sam Gaviglio (0-1, 1.38 ERA) is set to make his third major-league start when they open a two-game series Monday at Colorado. RHP Tyler Chatwood (4-6, 4.50) is scheduled for the Rockies.

Red Sox: LHP Price makes his season debut Monday in Chicago against the White Sox after being sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow.

--

More AP baseball coverage:https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball