Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen


Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

By Maureen Mullen 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

Cubs reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs reach first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.