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