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

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

Scott's taste of big-league life with Red Sox has him hungering for more

CHESNUT HILL -- The Red Sox Rookie Development Program is designed to help young players prepare for what playing at the major-league level is like,. That can be valuable for a prospect like Rafael Devers, who hasn’t even made it to Double-A.

But of the eight-man cast at the workout this year, there’s one guy who actually has major-league experience.

Robby Scott joined the Red Sox as a September call-up last season and turned some heads, holding opponents scoreless over six innings of work.

Now the lefty is back working with younger guys to prepare himself for spring training -- something he’s itching to get started.

“It’s one thing that we always talk about,” the left-handed reliever told CSNNE.com “It’s a tough road to get there, but it’s an even tougher and harder road to stay there. And having that taste in September last year was incredible to be a part of it.”

That taste Scott had last fall has only made the desire to rejoin Boston greater.

“Yeah, because now you know what it’s like,” Scott said CSNNE.com. “You see it and you’re there and you’re a part of it. And it’s like, ‘Man, I wanna be there.’ You’re a little bit more hungry.”

And his hunger to pitch with the Red Sox only becomes greater at an event like this where he’s the only one with MLB time.

“They ask on a consistent basis,” Scott started, “ ‘What’s it like?’ ‘What was it like getting there the first day?’ ‘How did the guys react?’ ‘What was it like dealing with the media?’

“That’s what this program is here for, just to kind of gives these guys a little taste of what it is like and get familiar with the circumstances.

While the experience and constant discussion invites players to try to do more in the offseason or change their routine, the 27-year-old has stayed the course, trusting what’s gotten him there.

“The offseason training stays the same, nothing really changes on that side of things,” Scott said. “Nothing changes. Go about my business the way I have the last six, seven years.”