Miller shines in return from injury

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Miller shines in return from injury

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Pitching for the first time since he felt some stiffness in his left elbow, Andrew Miller would have been happy just to be pain-free Friday night.

The fact that he showed dominant stuff was a bonus.

"Tonight was probably the best stuff I've had, across the board, in the last couple of years,'' said a satisfied Miller.

Pitching the fifth, Miller walked leadoff hitter Joe Mauer, but then retired the next three hitters, two by strikeouts.

"(The elbow) felt real good,'' said Miller. "Hopefully it's something that's in the past. The real test will come (Saturday) morning, but I feel real good right now.''

Miller had been scheduled to pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals on March 8, but that outing was scratched when Miller felt some stiffness in the elbow.

"I think you're a little bit worried any time your arm hurts,'' he said. "It wasn't too uncommon a feeling. I'd like to think that, during the season, it was something I wouldn't have missed any time for. From the day (when I first felt it), every day felt pretty good and it got better pretty quickly. I've been pain-free since then.''

Miller's goal is to become a member of the starting rotation, but he realizes he's got some ground to make up after being shut down for a week and a half.

"There's still time to build up and lengthen out,'' he said. "But starters now are going five innings. The goal for me is to be with the big club, but if starting's going to be in the equation, it's going to have to happen pretty fast.

"I've got a ways to go if I'm going to be expected to go throw seven or eight innings...I hope this setback doesnt' eliminate me from that.''

If he doesn't make the rotation, he hopes he has a more meaningful role than serving as the long man, as he did for parts of last season.

"I don't think that's really a role anyone can succeed in,'' he said. "I don't think going long periods of time without pitching, then being expected to go into a game in the first inning of a 10-run game is really a way to succeed.

"I've never been in a situation where I've been asked to consistently get lefties out, or throw an inning or basically pitch three or four times a week. I think I'm capable of it. I would welcome the opoprtunity. My goal is to be part of the team. I think we have a great team and I want to be part of it.''

Whether he starts or relieves, Miller knows the key is to show better consistency.

"That's been my downfall historically,'' said Miller. "I've got to avoid the hiccups I've had in the past where I have a rough one or two (outings) in a row. A good starter is someone who goes out and gives you a chance (to win) every time -- not five out of six, or four out of five.''

Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

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Red Sox’ quotes, notes and stars from 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Notes, quotes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Rays:

QUOTES:

* "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully, the tests come back clean.'' -Andrew Benintendi, on the uncertainty surrounding his knee injury.

* "Sometimes, I like that, sometimes I don't because I'd kind of take a couple of quick outs in place of those to get a couple of more innings out there.'' -Drew Pomeranz on his career high 11 strikeouts.

* "That's probably the spot that looms the largest. Jackie's become more aggressive early in the count, but at the same time, that aggressiveness can work against you.'' -Farrell on Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging at the first pitch following a walk with the bases loaded.

NOTES:

* Drew Pomeranz recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts

 * Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dustin Pedroia has a slash line of .397/.418/.460 in 16 games.

* Pomeranz has yielded two runs or fewer in five consecutive starts.

* On the just-completed road trip, the Red Sox led in all but one game.

* Thursday's loss was the fourth this season in which the Sox allowed two runs or fewer.

 * The past 18 Red Sox losses have come by a combined 37 runs.

* Until Thursday, the Red Sox had won 20 of their past 31 day games.

* The bottom third of the makeshift Red Sox lineup combined to go 2-for-12.

* The Sox missed out on a chance to have an eight-win road trip, which would have been their first since 2011.

STARS:

1) Jake Odorizzi

The Rays started, facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, limited the Sox to a single run over seven innings, allowing just five hits and getting out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.

2) Mikie Mahtook

Mahtook was 0-for-34 when facing Drew Pomeranz in the seventh inning, but that didn't stop him from doubling home Steven Souza Jr with what proved to be the winning run.

3) Dustin Pedroia

The Sox couldn't generate much of anything at all offensively, but don't blame Pedroia. The leadoff hitter had three hits and a walk and was on base four times for the Sox.

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will under more tests Friday in Boston

Benintendi's MRI inconclusive; will under more tests Friday in Boston

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Andrew Benintendi saga will continue for at least one more day, as an MRI taken here Thursday morning was, in the words of John Farrell, "inconclusive" and the rookie left fielder will undergo more tests Friday in Boston.

"Our doctors want to get him back to a full exam with (team orthopedist) Dr. [Peter] Asnis," Farrell said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays, which concluded the team's 11-game road trip. "Hopefully, when I speak to you all [Friday] afternoon (at Fenway Park, prior to the team's game against Royals), there will be a little more information on this."

Farrell said Friday's tests "will include some other imaging".

The Sox placed Benintendi on the 15-day disabled list after he injured his left night while running the bases Wednesday night. 

"We're going to do some more tests tomorrow and take it day-by-day," he said. "There's not much I can do about it now. It's kind of a waiting game and hopefully the tests come back clean.''
 
Benintendi found one sliver of hope:
 
"The more I walk on it, the better it feels. I'm going to stay as positive as I can.'' 

First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

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First impressions of Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First Impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field:

 

* When the guy who was 0-for-34 produces the go-ahead RBI, it's probably not your day.

The Red Sox and Rays were tied 1-1 in the seventh when Steven Souza Jr. singled to lead off the inning. That brought Mikie Mahtook, hitless in his last 34 at-bats to the plate.

Naturally, Mahtook roped a line-drive double to left field, scoring Souza all the way from first base. It was that kind of day for the Red Sox, who were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and stranded five baserunners.

For a team that still leads the majors in runs scored, the Red Sox have shown an uncanny ability to go cold at the plate.

On Thursday afternoon, that happened again, while the most unlikely hero for Tampa Bay came through in an improbable spot.

 

* The Red Sox' struggles with the bases loaded is almost comical.

It happened again.

In the sixth inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases with no out. Mookie Betts then hit a sacrifice fly to left, scoring one run. Hanley Ramirez then walked, re-loading the bases, this time with one out.

But Jackie Bradley Jr. then swung at the first pitch and hit into an inning-ending, rally-killing 4-6-3 double play.

In two plate appearances with the bases loaded, the Sox failed to get a hit.

The Sox are hitting .216 with the bases loaded (24-for-111), ranking them 14th in the American League. Only Seattle and Detroit have had more bases-loaded opportunities, and yet the Red Sox rank in the second half in runs scored in such situations.

 

* Drew Pomeranz is showing no signs of innings fatigue

True, Pomeranz failed to provide a shutdown inning in the sixth after the Red Sox had gotten him a run in the top of the inning.

Still, Pomeranz pitched into the seventh and allowed just two runs while striking out a season-high 11 batters.

In his past five starts, he's compiled a 2.37 ERA, and both the power to his fastball and the sharpness to his curve offer no evidence that he's hit any sort of wall despite already establishing a career high at the major league level with five weeks remaining in the season.