Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

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Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Left-hander Andrew Miller is scheduled to make his first start for the Red Sox Monday night against the Padres.

It will be the 80th big-league appearance for Miller, a first-round draft pick (sixth overall) by the Tigers in 2006, who made his debut less than three weeks after signing.

While Miller has pitched in the big leagues in each of the last five seasons, compiling a record of 15-26 with a 5.84 ERA, he has made nearly as many minor-league appearances (63) in that time, posting a record of 10-19 with a 3.66.

He's hoping the Red Sox, his third organization, offer him something the others havent: A chance to settle in, free of the mechanics tinkering hes been subjected to in the past, and a chance to bring to fruition the potential he has always had.

Miller was originally acquired by the Sox in a November trade with the Marlins for lefty Dustin Richardson (who was recently designated for assignment by Florida). Shortly after that, though, the Sox non-tendered Miller in the hopes of signing him to a less-expensive contract. They did just that in December, but the new deal, according to a source, gave Miller two opt-out clauses, allowing him to walk away if the Sox did not put him on the big league roster by specified dates. One of those dates was June 15 (the other was in August).

Miller, his agent, and Sox general manager Theo Epstein met on June 15 and reached an agreement that Miller would be promoted to Boston and make his Sox debut Monday against the Padres. When right-hander Clay Buchholz was placed on the disabled list Sunday, Miller was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and activated. He arrived at Fenway Park shortly before the start of the teams series finale against the Brewers.

There really wasnt much of a decision process, Miller said. I knew there was a date coming up but that was handled. I was basically reassured by the Red Sox that good things were going to happen. They have, and just happy to still be here.

Obviously looking forward to being promoted a lot. I think Ive been pitching well lately and just looking to carry it over and do the same thing here.

Miller has been pitching well. After a tweak to his pregame warm-up routine, initiated by Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur and minor-league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel, Miller has put up impressive numbers. Sauveur suggested changing Millers pregame routine to one similar to that of Buchholz warm up early, sit down, and warm up again just before game time.

Overall, Miller has a record of 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) this season, with 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 65 23 innings. He held batters to an International League-best .181 average.

It took him until his fourth start before he could record his first win this season. It took him until his 10th start until he earned his second 'W.' But in four starts since adjusting his pregame routine, Miller is 2-1, allowing a combined five earned runs over 25 13 innings, for a 1.78 ERA, with 26 strikeouts and just 3 walks. The only loss in that span came in his June 8 outing in Norfolk, when he allowed one earned run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts over seven innings.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Miller, who has been plagued by control issues during his career, has allowed just one walk in his last three outings, spanning 18 13 innings. He struck out a season-high 10 batters in his last start, a no-decision June 14 against Charlotte, with one walk.

I think you certainly want to get called up when youre throwing the ball well and I think thats been the case lately, he said. So what better time? I think weve got a good program in place and just stick to it and well do the same thing here that Ive been doing down there, and go out there and pitch well.

I think its just been a combination of everything. Getting settled in, getting comfortable. I think its just a combination really of finding a place and I had a good program put in place down there and good routine. Its just carried over the success lately.

Millers fastball sits in the mid 90s and can touch the high 90s. His mechanics, he believes, are better than they have been in recent seasons.

Id like to think so, he said. I think right now Im confident the way Im throwing the ball and just looking to keep it going.

Theres a lot to like about Miller, manager Terry Francona said.

"We're hoping to see exactly what he's been doing his last four starts at Triple-A," Francona said. "One start doesn't make or break your career. But we just want to see him pound the strike zone with his good stuff. He's really done a terrific job.

Daniel Bard, Miller's teammate while both pitchers were at the University of North Carolina, is looking forward to seeing what the left-hander can do for the Sox.

I know hes been throwing the ball really well these four or five starts in Triple-A, Bard said. But Im just excited for him. Its kind of been a long road back to the big leagues for him and I know hes worked extremely hard to get back. As a friend of mine, just glad to see him personally get back, but also I think he can really help this team. Im not sure what role itll be in the long term. But hes too good to let go.

Bard is hoping the Sox can get from Miller what other teams were unable to.

Obviously the Marlins, for whatever reason, didnt want him anymore and the Red Sox saw it as a great opportunity and jumped on it, Bard said. At this point, I think its worked out really well for both sides, for Andrew and for the Red Sox. But I think the biggest thing, when they did agree to that deal in the offseason, both sides want it to be a long-term partnership. Andrew, just to be with the same organization, the Red Sox because they saw him as a big piece of their future. So, I think thats beginning of what we see this week.

Outfielder Josh Reddick played most of the season with Miller in Pawtucket and knows what the tall lefty can do.

Even when hes not on, hes a little bit wildly effective, as they call it, Reddick said. But definitely when hes on, hes going to be tough because hes got a good slider and his fastball runs up there to the mid to upper 90s. He hides his ball so well. Luckily Ive never faced him before and hopefully I wont have to do that in the near future.

Miller, though, isnt taking the future as a given, just as he never took it for granted that he would be standing on a big league mound wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Nothings guaranteed, he said. Certainly coming into the situation, not on the roster, you never know whats going to happen. You look at the rotation and the staff, everybody on the roster here, its an unbelievable team. Im just glad an opportunity has arisen but certainly nothings guaranteed.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Red Sox claim right-hander Doug Fister off waivers

Right-handed starter Doug Fister, who opted out of his contract with the Angels, has been claimed off waivers by the Red Sox, CSN Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich has confirmed.

The news was first reported by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation, who writes that Fister, 33, will join the Red Sox immediately.

Fister opted out of with the Angels after three Triple-A starts in Salt Lake City, where he allowed seven runs on 16 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. 

With Eduardo Rodriguez and Brian Johnson on the DL, the Red Sox need immediate starting pitching help. Triple-A Pawtucket call-up Hector Velazquez made a spot start earlier this week in the fifth spot behind Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, David Price and Drew Pomeranz. 

Fister will receive $1.75 million in the majors from the Red Sox, with $1.2 million available in additional incentives, according to Cotillo. 

Fister has pitched eight seasons in the majors, including 2016 with the Astros, going 12-13 with 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings. His best season was 2014 with the Nationals (16-6, 2.41 ERA).


 

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

Roasted: Ortiz apparently thought Pedroia's real first name was Pee Wee

BOSTON — It took until 2015, apparently, but David Ortiz now knows Dustin Pedroia’s full name.

The couple days leading up to the jersey retirement ceremony tonight for Ortiz have been packed. Around lunch time Thursday, Ortiz had a street near Fenway Park named after him — a bridge wasn’t enough — the street formerly known as Yawkey Way Extension. (It’s between Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Station.) On Friday morning, he was at Logan Airport where JetBlue Gate C34 was designed with a new theme to honor Ortiz.

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Tonight's the big night, so to speak. But Thursday night will probably go down as the most entertaining.

Ortiz was roasted at House of Blues on Thursday, joined on stage by Pedroia, Rob Gronkowski and a handful of actual comedians. Bill Burr was the biggest name among the professional joke-tellers. It was a charity event to benefit the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, which helps to provide lifesaving surgeries for children.

All the comedians — Lenny Clarke, Sarah Tiana, Anthony Mackie, Josh Wolf, Adam Ray (a young man dressed up as an old Yankees fan) — ripped on everyone on stage, including Pedroia. Naturally, Pedroia was mocked for being short over and over and over.

When he took the podium, Pedroia said it was a good thing the height of the microphone was adjustable. If he had to stand on his wallet, he said, he’d be up to the roof.

Most jokes were not suitable for print or broadcast. But the story Pedroia told about being in the on-deck circle when a catcher needed a ball once was a highlight. It's from just two years ago.

“So I had already played with David for, I don’t know, nine years?” Pedroia said. “And I hit right in front of him for nine years.”

The Red Sox were playing the Indians at home. The umpire had to use the bathroom and the ball rolled near Pedroia. So the catcher said hello to Pedroia, using the second baseman’s first name.

“David walks over and goes, what the [expletive] did he call you?” Pedroia said.

“I said, ‘Dustin,’” Pedroia said. 

Ortiz was confused. “’Why’d he call you that?’” he said.

“I go, that’s my [expletive] name,” Pedroia said. “He goes, 'Oh, is that right?’

"I’m like, ‘Yeah, bro. I’ve had 1,600 games with you. They’ve actually said it 5,000 [expletive] times: now batting, No. 15, Dustin Pedroia.’”

“I thought it was Pee Wee," Ortiz went.

“This is dead serious,” Pedroia said. “Now the umpire comes back — I’m standing there, I got to hit...and I’m looking at him, ‘You thought my parents would name me [expletive] Pee Wee?’ 

“And he’s just looking at me, and we’re having a conversation. The umpire’s yelling at me, the catcher’s laughing at me because he can hear kind of what he’s saying.”

No jersey retirement speech will be that funny.