Miller tosses another poor outing for Red Sox


Miller tosses another poor outing for Red Sox

By Maureen Mullen Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Making his debut for the Red Sox, facing the Padres June 20, left-hander Andrew Miller recorded wins in three of his first four outings, while the Sox won all four. Jon Lester was the last Sox lefty to go unbeaten in his first four starts, going 5-0 in his first nine starts from June 10 July 23, 2006.

But that may be where the comparisons end for the two left-handers this season.

Getting off to a 4-1 start, with a 4.65 ERA entering Tuesdays game against the Royals at Fenway Park, Millers lone loss came against the Rays, when he gave up seven runs in 2 23 innings on July 15. His wins have come against the Pirates, Astros, and Orioles twice teams that have a combined winning percentage of .463 (120-139). The Rays (36-31) and Pirates (39-37) are the only teams he has faced with winning records.

Add the Royals to the list of teams Miller has now faced with sub-.500 records. Facing the American League Centrals last place team, Miller lasted just 3 23 innings, giving up seven runs (just five earned, courtesy of his own error) on nine hits and two walks with one strikeout and one home run.He threw 80 pitches, 43 for strikes, at 53.7 percent, below the generally accepted level of 60 percent.

Miller was not involved in the decision, as the Sox offense erupted for eight runs after he was knocked out of the game, on their way to 13-9 win over the Royals. His ERA, though, climbed nearly a run, from 4.65 to 5.45 in his outing.

When the Sox signed Miller as a free agent in December, after acquiring him in a trade with the Marlins in November, they knew he would be a project. The former 2006 first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers out of North Carolina offered promise that had yet to come to fruition. Tall and lanky, Miller is often said to have many moving parts in his delivery. The Sox believed if they could unlock that promise, the left-hander could be a key member of their pitching staff.

He has yet to show he can do that, though, against the heavy hitters of the AL. Or even against the not-so-heavy hitters. In four starts against the Orioles twice, the Rays, and the Royals, Miller has gone a combined 17 innings, giving up 17 runs, 15 earned, on 22 hits and 17 walks, with four strikeouts and three home runs. That gives him an AL record of 2-1 with a 7.94 ERA, 2.29 WHIP, and 0.26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. He has not gone six innings in any of those starts, averaging just over four. His only AL loss is against the Rays, the only AL team he has faced with a winning record.

Against the Royals on Tuesday, he dug himself an early hole, allowing two runs in the first. After the Sox offense got the runs back in the home half of the first, Miller again allowed the Royals to put two more on the board in the second.

With the Sox leading by a run in the fourth, Miller again allowed the Royals to go ahead on a two-run homer by Alex Gordon and a solo homer by Billy Butler with one out. After Eric Hosmer flied out, Millers outing was done.

He didnt locate his fastball very well, manager Terry Francona said. He threw some good changeups but he just missed. And then he just didnt follow catcher Jason Variteks glove very much. Velocity was good. The ball came out of his hand really nice, actually stayed in his delivery pretty well. Just didnt throw the ball where he wanted to.

For Varitek, it is difficult to see a pattern to Millers inconsistency.

Its hard to really tell, Varitek said. He had a good outing last outing. The Royals, give these guys a little credit. They swung the bats well and didnt miss many mistakes. When you limit the amount of mistakes you make with quality pitches then things are in your favor most of the time.

Miller is winless in three career starts against the Royals, with an 11.08 ERA. Kansas Citys nine hits Tuesday are the most Miller has allowed in an outing this season.

I think his stuffs good, said Royals manager Ned Yost. But, I think he struggles, like we did tonight, with his command some. He pitches behind in the count some but I like his stuff.

Miller, though, was not satisfied. After Mondays 14-inning game, in which the bullpen combined to pitch 8 23 innings, it would have been beneficial if Miller had gone deeper into the game.

I didnt walk that many guys, I guess, for how long I was out there, he said. But still was behind in the count and up in the zone. Not going to be out there long if youre doing that, unfortunately. I knew coming in to this after Monday night it was my job to pitch deep into the game and didnt do a good job of that tonight. Fortunately Alfredo Aceves was able to come in and pick up a lot of slack. I just wasnt very good.

I felt like I just seemed to dig myself a hole for every at-bat and trying to come back 2-0 and 3-1 turns into a lot of hits, and long innings, and thats what youre trying to avoid.

Miller is at a loss to explain his recent stretch.

Right now, whether its the season-high six walks in the last game against Baltimore on July 20, basically probably got lucky to get through that or just getting behind in the count Tuesday. Successful pitchers pitch ahead in the count. Im not doing that right now.

With the July 31 trading deadline approaching, and with Clay Buchholz on the disabled list, Daisuke Matsuzaka out for the season after Tommy John surgery, and John Lackey battling inconsistency, Millers performance may affect the Sox approach over the next few days.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

New MLB labor deal: All-Star Game no longer determines home field in World Series

IRVING, Texas -- Baseball players and owners reached a tentative agreement on a five-year labor contract Wednesday night, a deal that will extend the sport's industrial peace to 26 years since the ruinous fights in the first two decades of free agency.

After days of near round-the-clock talks, negotiators reached a verbal agreement about 3 1/2 hours before the expiration of the current pact. Then they worked to draft a memorandum of understanding, which must be ratified by both sides.

"It's great! Another five years of uninterrupted baseball," Oakland catcher Stephen Vogt said in a text message.

In announcing the agreement, Major League Baseball and the players' association said they will make specific terms available when drafting is complete.

"Happy it's done, and baseball is back on," Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy said.

As part of the deal, the experiment of having the All-Star Game determine which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series will end after 14 years, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been signed.

Instead, the pennant winner with the better regular-season record will open the Series at home.

Another important change: The minimum time for a stint on the disabled list will be reduced from 15 days to 10.

The luxury tax threshold rises from $189 million to $195 million next year, $197 million in 2018, $206 million in 2019, $209 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.

Tax rates increase from 17.5 percent to 20 percent for first offenders, remain at 30 percent for second offenders and rise from 40 percent to 50 percent for third offenders. There is a new surtax of 12 percent for teams $20 million to $40 million above the threshold, 42.5 percent for first offenders more than $40 million above the threshold and 45 percent for subsequent offenders more than $40 million above.

Union head Tony Clark, presiding over a negotiation for the first time, said in a statement the deal "will benefit all involved in the game and leaves the game better for those who follow."

Key changes involve the qualifying offers clubs can make to their former players after they become free agents - the figure was $17.2 million this year. If a player turns down the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team forfeits an amateur draft pick, which usually had been in the first round under the old deal.

Under the new rules, a player can receive a qualifying offer only once in his career and will have 10 days to consider it instead of seven. A club signing a player who declined a qualifying offer would lose its third-highest amateur draft pick if it is a revenue-sharing receiver, its second- and fifth-highest picks (plus a loss of $1 million in its international draft pool) if it pays luxury tax for the just-ended season, and its second-highest pick (plus $500,000 in the international draft pool) if it is any other team.

A club losing a free agent who passed up a qualifying offer would receive an extra selection after the first round of the next draft if the player signed a contract for $50 million or more and after competitive balance round B if under $50 million. However, if that team pays luxury tax, the extra draft pick would drop to after the fourth round.

Among other details:

-For a team $40 million or more in excess of the luxury tax threshold, its highest selection in the next amateur draft will drop 10 places.

-While management failed to obtain an international draft of amateurs residing outside the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada, it did get a hard cap on each team's annual bonus pool for those players starting at $4.75 million for the signing period that begins next July 2.

-There is no change to limits on active rosters, which remain at 25 for most of the season and 40 from Sept. 1 on.

-Smokeless tobacco will be banned for all new players, those who currently do not have at least one day of major league service.

-The regular season will expand from 183 days to 187 starting in 2018, creating four more scheduled off days. There are additional limitations on the start times of night games on getaway days.

-The minimum salary rises from $507,500 to $535,000 next year, $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019, with cost-of-living increases the following two years; the minor league minimum for a player appearing on the 40-man roster for at least the second time goes up from $82,700 to $86,500 next year, $88,000 in 2018 and $89,500 in 2019, followed by cost-of-living raises.

-The drop-off in slot values in the first round of the amateur draft will be lessened.

-Oakland's revenue-sharing funds will be cut to 75 percent next year, 50 percent in 2018, 25 percent in 2019 and then phased out.

-As part of the drug agreement, there will be increased testing, players will not be credited with major league service time during suspensions, and biomarker testing for HGH will begin next year.

Negotiators met through most of Tuesday night in an effort to increase momentum in the talks, which began during spring training. This is the third straight time the sides reached a new agreement before the old contract expired, but a deal was struck eight weeks in advance in 2006 and three weeks ahead of expiration in 2011.

Talks took place at a hotel outside Dallas where the players' association held its annual executive board meeting.

Clark, the first former player to serve as executive director of the union, and others set up in a meeting room within earshot of a children's choir practicing Christmas carols. A man dressed as Santa Claus waited nearby.

Baseball had eight work stoppages from 1972-95, the last a 7 1/2-month strike in 1994-95 that led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years. The 2002 agreement was reached after players authorized a strike and about 3 1/2 hours before the first game that would have been impacted by a walkout.

The peace in baseball is in contrast to the recent labor histories of other major sports. The NFL had a preseason lockout in 2011, the NBA lost 240 games to a lockout that same year and the NHL lost 510 games to a lockout in 2012-13.