Miller solid in first start for Red Sox

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Miller solid in first start for Red Sox

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON It's been a long wait for Andrew Miller's Red Sox debut.

Acquired from the Marlins in November. Non-tendered soon after that and becoming a free agent. Re-signing with the Sox, but with an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent again if he wasn't on the major-league roster on June 15. Starting the year in Pawtucket. Struggling with his command early in Triple-A, but then finding his rhythm as the opt-out date approached. Recalled to Boston. Tabbed to start Monday night against San Diego.

Yes, it's been a long wait. And for Miller, a former first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers in 2006, it was not without some degree of pressure.

Completely honest, probably quite a bit, he said when asked if he felt some pressure. I think this was something that from the moment I found out I was going to get a start here, you think about it a little bit. For me in my situation, I had a lot of time to think about it. It wasnt like it was the night before or anything like that. So, it had gone through my head, but I trusted that I was prepared and I was throwing the ball well and I was going to go out there and have a good outing here.

Fortunately for me in my situation, I do have some big-league experience. It hasnt been in Boston but I think that certainly helps it. I certainly wasnt as anxious or nervous as probably most guys who come in here for the first time.

Facing the Padres, Miller went 5 23 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks with six strikeouts.

He did a good job, said catcher Jason Varitek. All in all, his stuffs good. Threw some real good changeups and pitched out of one situation earlier, man on third, no outs and did a real good job of doing it.

Really good, really encouraging, manager Terry Francona said of Millers outing. His changeup was really good. Solid breaking ball. Theres a lot to be encouraged about. Just made a bad pitch and paid for it.

The bad pitch was to Orlando Hudson, who blasted a three-run homer with one out in the sixth and tied the game at 3-3. Miller was lifted not long afterwards, and thus wasn't involved in the decision as the Sox exploded for 10 runs in the bottom of the seventh en route to a 14-5 victory.

Still, Miller agreed: There was a lot to like Monday night.

It was a lot of fun, Miller said. I think any time you get to pitch in Fenway is going to be fun and especially to go out there with a Red Sox uniform on is a blast.

"Unfortunately, the last inning kind of brought me down to reality a bit. But, all in all, its hard to beat that experience.

With Triple-A Pawtucket, Miller posted a record of 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games, with 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 65 23 innings, holding batters to an International League-best .181 average. In his four starts, since he adjusting his pregame routine, he was 2-1 with a 1.78 ERA, with 26 strikeouts and just three walks. The 6-foot, 7-inch Miller, who has been plagued by control issues during his career, had allowed just one walk in his last three outings, spanning 18 13 innings.

The first walk he gave up Monday was to Cameron Maybin, Milllers former teammate and roommate with the Tigers and Marlins. Miller and Maybin were both part of the seven-player trade that sent them from Detroit (with three other players) to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis after the 2007 season. After that he struck out Maybin on a curveball in the fourth and got him to line out to Jacoby Ellsbury in the sixth.

In that first at-bat I didnt really command my fastball to him, Miller said. I think it was in my head a little bit. And after that, ultimately, Im still pitching. But for me, being a friend of his and coming up with him and all, its certainly probably as close to any hitter Ive faced maybe as far as having a personal relationship with him and then having to face him in a game at this level. But, still Im just looking at the catcher and looking at the mitt. So that really wasnt too big of an issue.

Miller handled the Padres well for most of his outing. His first dose of trouble came in the fourth, when Jesus Guzman led off with a triple off the wall in center field. But Miller retired the next three batters, keeping San Diego off the scoreboard for the time being.

But with one out and two runners on in the sixth, the Padres broke through. On the first pitch of the at-bat a 91-mph fastball Hudson delivered a laser into the back row of the Monster seats, tying the score with his first home run of the season.

After the Hudson homer, Miller got Maybin to line out before Anthony Rizzos double into the triangle in center field ended Millers night.

Francona was pleased with Millers outing.

Weve seen what hes done in Triple-A, Francona said. He deserves so much credit. He went and worked on things and the last four, five, six starts was really starting to put together some really good starts. Hes got some moving parts in his delivery. Tall. Lanky. He walked a couple of guys and came right back and made pitches.

The one time they had a runner on third, nobody out, he really executed. Theres a lot to like. This kid can pitch. Sometimes you have to kind of catch a break to acquire a good pitcher. Maybe we did.

For Miller, who made his major league debut with the Marlins less than three weeks after signing in 2006 but has spent almost as much time in the minor as he has in the big leagues since, theres one way to ensure that he remains in the major leagues, bringing to fruition the promise he has always had.

I think physically at times Ive shown that I have the ability to succeed at this level against the best teams, he said. Its ultimately though you got to do it all the time and I think confidence is huge in that. You build that by success and success breeds confidence. I think thats what Im looking to do and I certainly am aware of that.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

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Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

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Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.