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

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason tells Toucher & Rich a story from his early days in Cincinnati when he witnessed Pete Rose overseeing five guys he paid to sign a stack of photographs for fans.