Miller's 'poor performance' dooms Red Sox

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Miller's 'poor performance' dooms Red Sox

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Andrew Miller didnt waste words. This was not what he had been expecting, and certainly not what he was hoping for.

After two strong outings, during which he gave up just one run over 11 23 combined innings in Kansas City and Texas, his outing against the Rangers Friday night at Fenway Park was, in his words, a pretty poor performance. He lasted just 1 13 innings, giving up six runs on five hits and four walks, with one strikeout and a balk. After a three-run homer to Kinsler in the second, he departed, leaving the bases loaded for Michael Bowden.

He faced 13 batters, throwing 52 pitches (26 strikes). Millers record fell to 6-2, while his ERA jumped to 5.27. He threw 30 pitches in the first inning, just 16 for strikes.

We fell behind some guys and we couldnt really zone in, said catcher Jason Varitek. Not to make excuses, but its been a while (Miller's last appearance was Aug. 25) since hes been on the mound. They didnt really give him much room and once that happened they stepped on the gas pedal pretty good.

In the first inning, after walking Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, Miller committed a balk before striking out Josh Hamilton, looking at a slider. But Michael Youngs single scored Kinsler, and Adrian Beltres sacrifice fly scored Andrus before Mike Napoli grounded out to end the inning.

In the second, after Yorvit Torrrealba and David Murphy led off with singles, Craig Gentry moved them over with a sacrifice bunt, which would prove to be the only out Miller could get in the inning. Kinsler followed with a three-run blast over the Monster. Andrus walked for the second time, and Hamiltons single and walk to Michael Young loaded the bases, ending Millers night.

Michael Bowden entered in the unenviable position. After getting Beltre to fly out, Bowden walked in Andrus, before getting Torrealba to popout to Dustin Pedroia. All the runs were charged to Miller, giving the Sox' woeful offense (two hits) a hole it couldnt remedy.

He started out on the first couple of hitters not commanding and it turned into a couple of runs in the first inning, fortunately just a couple, manager Terry Francona said. Second inning, ball to shortstop Jed Lowries left and couldnt get to, and a ball, kind of a roller gets by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Then he leaves a ball over the middle and it goes a long way. They spread it out and then we couldnt stop it from there. so it was kind of a bad night all the way around. They did a lot offensively. We did very little. Just a tough night.

it was not the kind of outing Francona was expecting from Miller after his two previous outings.

We got awfully excited about Miller after his last couple of starts, Francona said, "and then today coming out of the chute, he was just leaving a lot of balls up, especially arm side, and then when he did bring it in to the plate it was in the middle and got hit.

Facing the Rangers in back-to-back starts -- his Aug. 25 appearance was in Texas -- was not an issue, Miller said.

No, it was one of those times I went out and walked the first two guys and kind of put us back on our heels and never really made the correction, he said. I certainly thought after getting through the first not the way I wanted to go felt like I still had plenty to go to be able to keep us in the game long enough. A couple of ground ball hits to start the inning . . . Pitch was supposed to be in to Kinsler. Im assuming it wasnt. Things snowballed from there. Just never made the correct adjustment.

His pregame warmup gave him no hint of what was to come.

Felt great in the bullpen, he said. Felt good in my warmup pitches right before the game, just kind of came out and didnt have the zone right away. Ended up costing.

His inconsistencies from his previous two starts to this, though, are not completely unexpected. He has had similar stretches in his 13 starts with the Sox since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket in June. But, given his previous two outings -- allowing just six hits and four walks with nine strikeouts this one is even more frustrating.

Disappointing, he said. Felt like I had been throwing the ball well. I had gotten opportunities, certainly didnt do that tonight. From here you kind of dust yourself off and Ill be prepared the next time I get an opportunity. But pretty poor performance tonight.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

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.