FORT MYERS, Fla. Left-handers Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, vying for a bullpen spot, both had throwing sessions Wednesday. Hill is trying to perfect his new sidearm delivery. Miller is trying to fulfill the promise that made him the first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers in 2006.
Hes bought in to the new delivery, manager Terry Francona said of Hill. He bought in last year in September, he had various angles. Just through conversations I think, as a staff, we felt like thats probably what we liked. But if a guy doesn't feel comfortable, it's certainly not going to work. He actually brought it to our attention that sidearm is his comfort zone. When he's out there playing long-toss on flat ground, that's the angle he usually throws from. It seems like if that that's where he's comfortable, it would be a lot easier. The hard thing to do is when you go out there and give up some runs and staying with it. But its something that I think has a chance to make him be a part of a major-league bullpen."
In Millers career, several pitching coaches have tinkered with his delivery, which is not what Francona is looking for from the lefty in his first season with the Sox.
"We actually don't want it to be an adjustment," Francona said. "I know he's been through a lot. He has the high leg kick. He got to the big leagues early, and because of the way he threw, understandably, teams tried to change him a little bit. I think what were going to try do is really simplify it and let that athleticism show and let that natural ability show. Just try to get him to simplify and have some fun and let that ability take over. Theres some pretty special stuff coming out of that arm. Rather than have 30-pitch side days to find the results, we want him to enjoy the journey. That's kind of what we've been telling him."
With Millers size 6-feet-7 his mechanics can become intricate, a slight change causing undesirable results.
"That's always going to be the case, Francona said. Guys like 6-feet-10 flamethrower Randy Johnson, you see some of the taller guys, it takes a while because the the most important thing is to repeat your delivery. When youve got that much body, it's hard to repeat. But, man, when he gets it right, it's awful pretty."
Adrian Gonzalez did not take batting practice on Wednesday, after increasing to 30 swings on Tuesday. It was not cause for alarm, as Francona had said previously Gonzalez had the option of taking a down day on Wednesday. He'll come back Thursday and start over again, Francona said. He's been feeling good, but that's what we wanted him to do."
Gonzalez, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder, took part in infield practice.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon was back after suffering with flu-like symptoms for several days.
Unlike some managers who have already named Opening Day starters, Francona has never made that decision this early in spring training.
It just doesnt make a lot of sense, he said. Somebodys going to have to answer a lot of questions, when wed rather get through the bulk of the spring and know for a fact that thats the way its going to happen.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen