Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen
August 29, 2011, 4:45 pm
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By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced over the weekend his rotation for the three-game set with the Yankees that begins Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Right-hander John Lackey will take the mound in the first game, followed by Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester. Beyond that, the manager has not indicated who will pitch when.

But, with two days off, his staff should be well rested. Left-hander Eric Bedard is expected to stay in the rotation, leaving starts uncertain for Tim Wakefield, still in search of his 200th career win, and lefty Andrew Miller.

Whatever opportunity I get, Im just going to try and make the most out of it, Miller said. I dont know what those opportunities will be. Weve got five pretty good starters that are healthy right now. So, not really my concern. If they give me the ball, Ill take it. Obviously, Id like to pitch well and good things will happen.

Miller has had strong outings in his last two starts. Going a combined 11 23 innings in Kansas City on Aug. 19 and in Texas on Thursday, he gave up just one run on six hits and four walks with nine strikeouts. Earning wins in both outings, he improved to 6-1, with a 4.42 ERA.

Thursday he repeated his delivery consistently. Thats a really good thing, Francona said. When you're that tall (6-foot-7) -- and with all pitchers you have moving parts -- but when you're that tall and lanky theres going to be more. But his release point was the same. It was consistent. He threw all his pitches for strikes, took the sting out of the bats. He pitched. It was fun to watch.

Still, Miller could find himself in the bullpen for the stretch and the postseason. Its a situation hes familiar with. And one he is not averse to. He has made two relief appearances for the Sox this season, and 27 of his 91 major league appearances have been out of the bullpen.

Im fine with that, he said. I was out there for a while, didnt really pitch much, fortunately. That was a good thing. It meant we were winning games. So, however I can help the team. Im under contract here. So, thats my job, whatever they ask me to do.

While it is an adjustment, it is one he is open to.

To be honest with you, its gone pretty well, he said. So, I think, fortunately, Ive had to go through it a few times in the past. Its definitely something you learn the more you get used to it, and Im more comfortable each time I go out there.

The biggest adjustment?

Its such a different mentality coming into a game, he said. You have to be kind of locked in from the get-go. Whereas, as a starter you have to be prepared to be out there for a long time. You cant put too much into one hitter or one at-bat or something like that. Whereas, in the bullpen everything goes into one or two hitters for the most part. A little bit different approach but you learn and go out there, and essentially its the same game.

Prior to his two most recent starts, Miller had pitched just three total innings in August, 2 23 on Aug. 4 and 13 on Aug. 10, working out of the bullpen. In those relief appearances, he gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

I thought he handled the layoff really well, Francona said. Some of when he starts is determined by we have days off and other guys have pitched pretty well. Well figure those things out but we were thrilled with the way he pitched Thursday.

The lefty specialist role is one Miller could fill for the Sox. Although left-handers are batting .291 (16-for-55) with a home run against him this season, he also has 17 strikeouts and a 2.83 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Three of his six strikeouts Thursday came against Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, once looking and twice swinging, the final time to include a double play when Elvis Andrus was caught attempting to steal second base.

Yeah, I think I can fill that role, Miller said. I like to think I can get my fair share of lefties out. But whatever they ask of me.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen