Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

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Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

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

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”