Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

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Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Left-hander Andrew Miller is scheduled to make his first start for the Red Sox Monday night against the Padres.

It will be the 80th big-league appearance for Miller, a first-round draft pick (sixth overall) by the Tigers in 2006, who made his debut less than three weeks after signing.

While Miller has pitched in the big leagues in each of the last five seasons, compiling a record of 15-26 with a 5.84 ERA, he has made nearly as many minor-league appearances (63) in that time, posting a record of 10-19 with a 3.66.

He's hoping the Red Sox, his third organization, offer him something the others havent: A chance to settle in, free of the mechanics tinkering hes been subjected to in the past, and a chance to bring to fruition the potential he has always had.

Miller was originally acquired by the Sox in a November trade with the Marlins for lefty Dustin Richardson (who was recently designated for assignment by Florida). Shortly after that, though, the Sox non-tendered Miller in the hopes of signing him to a less-expensive contract. They did just that in December, but the new deal, according to a source, gave Miller two opt-out clauses, allowing him to walk away if the Sox did not put him on the big league roster by specified dates. One of those dates was June 15 (the other was in August).

Miller, his agent, and Sox general manager Theo Epstein met on June 15 and reached an agreement that Miller would be promoted to Boston and make his Sox debut Monday against the Padres. When right-hander Clay Buchholz was placed on the disabled list Sunday, Miller was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and activated. He arrived at Fenway Park shortly before the start of the teams series finale against the Brewers.

There really wasnt much of a decision process, Miller said. I knew there was a date coming up but that was handled. I was basically reassured by the Red Sox that good things were going to happen. They have, and just happy to still be here.

Obviously looking forward to being promoted a lot. I think Ive been pitching well lately and just looking to carry it over and do the same thing here.

Miller has been pitching well. After a tweak to his pregame warm-up routine, initiated by Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur and minor-league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel, Miller has put up impressive numbers. Sauveur suggested changing Millers pregame routine to one similar to that of Buchholz warm up early, sit down, and warm up again just before game time.

Overall, Miller has a record of 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) this season, with 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 65 23 innings. He held batters to an International League-best .181 average.

It took him until his fourth start before he could record his first win this season. It took him until his 10th start until he earned his second 'W.' But in four starts since adjusting his pregame routine, Miller is 2-1, allowing a combined five earned runs over 25 13 innings, for a 1.78 ERA, with 26 strikeouts and just 3 walks. The only loss in that span came in his June 8 outing in Norfolk, when he allowed one earned run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts over seven innings.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Miller, who has been plagued by control issues during his career, has allowed just one walk in his last three outings, spanning 18 13 innings. He struck out a season-high 10 batters in his last start, a no-decision June 14 against Charlotte, with one walk.

I think you certainly want to get called up when youre throwing the ball well and I think thats been the case lately, he said. So what better time? I think weve got a good program in place and just stick to it and well do the same thing here that Ive been doing down there, and go out there and pitch well.

I think its just been a combination of everything. Getting settled in, getting comfortable. I think its just a combination really of finding a place and I had a good program put in place down there and good routine. Its just carried over the success lately.

Millers fastball sits in the mid 90s and can touch the high 90s. His mechanics, he believes, are better than they have been in recent seasons.

Id like to think so, he said. I think right now Im confident the way Im throwing the ball and just looking to keep it going.

Theres a lot to like about Miller, manager Terry Francona said.

"We're hoping to see exactly what he's been doing his last four starts at Triple-A," Francona said. "One start doesn't make or break your career. But we just want to see him pound the strike zone with his good stuff. He's really done a terrific job.

Daniel Bard, Miller's teammate while both pitchers were at the University of North Carolina, is looking forward to seeing what the left-hander can do for the Sox.

I know hes been throwing the ball really well these four or five starts in Triple-A, Bard said. But Im just excited for him. Its kind of been a long road back to the big leagues for him and I know hes worked extremely hard to get back. As a friend of mine, just glad to see him personally get back, but also I think he can really help this team. Im not sure what role itll be in the long term. But hes too good to let go.

Bard is hoping the Sox can get from Miller what other teams were unable to.

Obviously the Marlins, for whatever reason, didnt want him anymore and the Red Sox saw it as a great opportunity and jumped on it, Bard said. At this point, I think its worked out really well for both sides, for Andrew and for the Red Sox. But I think the biggest thing, when they did agree to that deal in the offseason, both sides want it to be a long-term partnership. Andrew, just to be with the same organization, the Red Sox because they saw him as a big piece of their future. So, I think thats beginning of what we see this week.

Outfielder Josh Reddick played most of the season with Miller in Pawtucket and knows what the tall lefty can do.

Even when hes not on, hes a little bit wildly effective, as they call it, Reddick said. But definitely when hes on, hes going to be tough because hes got a good slider and his fastball runs up there to the mid to upper 90s. He hides his ball so well. Luckily Ive never faced him before and hopefully I wont have to do that in the near future.

Miller, though, isnt taking the future as a given, just as he never took it for granted that he would be standing on a big league mound wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Nothings guaranteed, he said. Certainly coming into the situation, not on the roster, you never know whats going to happen. You look at the rotation and the staff, everybody on the roster here, its an unbelievable team. Im just glad an opportunity has arisen but certainly nothings guaranteed.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

Market for Encarnacion is shrinking, yet Red Sox still don't seem interested

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- As the annual winter meetings get underway today, the market for arguably the best free-agent hitter may be -- against all logic -- lessening.

Edwin Encarnacion, who has averaged 39 homers a year over the last five seasons, should be a player in demand.

But in quick succession, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees, two teams thought to be in the market for Encarnacion, opted to go with older hitters who required shorter deals -- Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday.

Further, the Toronto Blue Jays' signing of Steve Pearce to a two-year deal Monday, coupled with their earlier acquisition of Kendrys Morales, closes the door on a potential return to Toronto for Encarnacion.

Seemingly, all of that would position the Red Sox, in search of a DH to replace the retired David Ortiz, to swoop in and land Encarnacion for far less than they could have imagined only weeks ago.

And yet, it appears as though things would have to change considerably for the Red Sox to reach agreement with Encarnacion.

While the first baseman-DH is known to be Ortiz's first choice as his replacement, for now, the economics don't work for the Sox -- even as Enacarnacion's leverage drops.

Encarnacion is expecting a deal of at least four years, with an average annual value around $20 million.

The Red Sox, industry sources indicate, are very much mindful of the luxury tax threshold. The Sox have, however modestly, gone over the threshold in each of the last two seasons, and even with a bump due to last week's new CBA, the Sox are dangerously close to the 2018 limit of $195 million.

Should the Sox go over for a third straight year, their tax would similarly ratchet up.

That, and the fact that Encarnacion would cost the Sox their first-round pick next June -- for this offseason, compensation for players given a qualifying offer comes under the old CBA rules -- represents two huge disincentives.

It's far more likely that the Sox will seek a cheaper option at DH from among a group that includes Pedro Alvarez and Mike Napoli. Neither is in Encarnacion's class, but then again, neither would cost a draft pick in return, or the long-term investment that Encarnacion is said to be seeking.

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason witnessed Pete Rose hire people to sign autographs

Boomer Esiason tells Toucher & Rich a story from his early days in Cincinnati when he witnessed Pete Rose overseeing five guys he paid to sign a stack of photographs for fans.