Boston Red Sox

Miller tosses another poor outing for Red Sox

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Miller tosses another poor outing for Red Sox

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Making his debut for the Red Sox, facing the Padres June 20, left-hander Andrew Miller recorded wins in three of his first four outings, while the Sox won all four. Jon Lester was the last Sox lefty to go unbeaten in his first four starts, going 5-0 in his first nine starts from June 10 July 23, 2006.

But that may be where the comparisons end for the two left-handers this season.

Getting off to a 4-1 start, with a 4.65 ERA entering Tuesdays game against the Royals at Fenway Park, Millers lone loss came against the Rays, when he gave up seven runs in 2 23 innings on July 15. His wins have come against the Pirates, Astros, and Orioles twice teams that have a combined winning percentage of .463 (120-139). The Rays (36-31) and Pirates (39-37) are the only teams he has faced with winning records.

Add the Royals to the list of teams Miller has now faced with sub-.500 records. Facing the American League Centrals last place team, Miller lasted just 3 23 innings, giving up seven runs (just five earned, courtesy of his own error) on nine hits and two walks with one strikeout and one home run.He threw 80 pitches, 43 for strikes, at 53.7 percent, below the generally accepted level of 60 percent.

Miller was not involved in the decision, as the Sox offense erupted for eight runs after he was knocked out of the game, on their way to 13-9 win over the Royals. His ERA, though, climbed nearly a run, from 4.65 to 5.45 in his outing.

When the Sox signed Miller as a free agent in December, after acquiring him in a trade with the Marlins in November, they knew he would be a project. The former 2006 first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers out of North Carolina offered promise that had yet to come to fruition. Tall and lanky, Miller is often said to have many moving parts in his delivery. The Sox believed if they could unlock that promise, the left-hander could be a key member of their pitching staff.

He has yet to show he can do that, though, against the heavy hitters of the AL. Or even against the not-so-heavy hitters. In four starts against the Orioles twice, the Rays, and the Royals, Miller has gone a combined 17 innings, giving up 17 runs, 15 earned, on 22 hits and 17 walks, with four strikeouts and three home runs. That gives him an AL record of 2-1 with a 7.94 ERA, 2.29 WHIP, and 0.26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He has not gone six innings in any of those starts, averaging just over four. His only AL loss is against the Rays, the only AL team he has faced with a winning record.

Against the Royals on Tuesday, he dug himself an early hole, allowing two runs in the first. After the Sox offense got the runs back in the home half of the first, Miller again allowed the Royals to put two more on the board in the second.

With the Sox leading by a run in the fourth, Miller again allowed the Royals to go ahead on a two-run homer by Alex Gordon and a solo homer by Billy Butler with one out. After Eric Hosmer flied out, Millers outing was done.

He didnt locate his fastball very well, manager Terry Francona said. He threw some good changeups but he just missed. And then he just didnt follow catcher Jason Variteks glove very much. Velocity was good. The ball came out of his hand really nice, actually stayed in his delivery pretty well. Just didnt throw the ball where he wanted to.

For Varitek, it is difficult to see a pattern to Millers inconsistency.

Its hard to really tell, Varitek said. He had a good outing last outing. The Royals, give these guys a little credit. They swung the bats well and didnt miss many mistakes. When you limit the amount of mistakes you make with quality pitches then things are in your favor most of the time.

Miller is winless in three career starts against the Royals, with an 11.08 ERA. Kansas Citys nine hits Tuesday are the most Miller has allowed in an outing this season.

I think his stuffs good, said Royals manager Ned Yost. But, I think he struggles, like we did tonight, with his command some. He pitches behind in the count some but I like his stuff.

Miller, though, was not satisfied. After Mondays 14-inning game, in which the bullpen combined to pitch 8 23 innings, it would have been beneficial if Miller had gone deeper into the game.

I didnt walk that many guys, I guess, for how long I was out there, he said. But still was behind in the count and up in the zone. Not going to be out there long if youre doing that, unfortunately. I knew coming in to this after Monday night it was my job to pitch deep into the game and didnt do a good job of that tonight. Fortunately Alfredo Aceves was able to come in and pick up a lot of slack. I just wasnt very good.

I felt like I just seemed to dig myself a hole for every at-bat and trying to come back 2-0 and 3-1 turns into a lot of hits, and long innings, and thats what youre trying to avoid.

Miller is at a loss to explain his recent stretch.

Right now, whether its the season-high six walks in the last game against Baltimore on July 20, basically probably got lucky to get through that or just getting behind in the count Tuesday. Successful pitchers pitch ahead in the count. Im not doing that right now.

With the July 31 trading deadline approaching, and with Clay Buchholz on the disabled list, Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the season after Tommy John surgery, and John Lackey battling inconsistency, Millers performance may affect the Sox approach over the next few days.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

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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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

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Werner criticizes Price for Eck incident; says Sox' relationship with Yanks is 'frosty'

BOSTON — Red Sox chairman Tom Werner doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of the the Yankees, MLB disciplinarian Joe Torre, and players who can’t take criticism from broadcasters.

In a spot Thursday with WEEI, Werner made clear David Price’s handling of Dennis Eckersley was unprofessional.

“Boston is a tough place to play,” Werner said on WEEI’s Ordway, Merlonia and Fauria. “Some players thrive here, and some players don’t. Get a thicker skin. My feeling is, let the broadcasts be honest, be personable, informative, and get over it if you think a certain announcer took a shot at you.”

“I thought there was a way of handling that. It wasn’t handled appropriately. If I’ve got a problem with Lou [Merloni], and I hear something he says on the radio, I’ll say to Lou, ‘That wasn’t fair.’ ”

Werner also called the team’s relationship with the Yankees “frosty” following the public sign-stealing saga that resulted in fines for both clubs.

“The fact is, I do think this was a minor technical violation,” Werner said. “I start with the fact that this was unfortunately raised to a level it never should have been raised to.”

Werner also insinuated he did not approve of how MLB and Torre handled the disciplining of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who receieved a four-game suspension for his part in a fight against the Tigers (reduced on appeal to three games).

“Do you think Gary Sanchez got an appropriate punishment?” Werner asked.