Millwood bides his time in Pawtucket

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Millwood bides his time in Pawtucket

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Follow @dannypicard
PAWTUCKET Its been a while since Kevin Millwood has registered a pitch in the mid-90s.

The 36-year-old isnt battling in the minor leagues because hes stubborn. He knows he doesnt have the same stuff he used to have. But like most veteran pitchers who want a job in the big leagues, hes found a way to adjust.

You hear it all the time. Guys learn how to pitch. Not that they couldnt before, but sometimes velocity can be a young pitchers best friend.

Eventually, that velocity declines, and instead of never talking to your best friend ever again, find a way to work things out.

Thats what Millwood believes hes done while in Triple-A with the Pawtucket Red Sox.

In six starts with the PawSox this season, Millwood is 3-0 with a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings. After a tough debut on June 1, the veteran right-hander rattled off three straight wins while allowing only one run in each of those three starts. He followed that up with no decision in a six-inning, two-run, seven-strikeout performance on June 23.

His latest outing wasnt very good, allowing six runs on nine hits in just four innings Tuesday. Still, Millwood wasnt very concerned a few days later.

I feel like Ive just gotten better, every time out, said Millwood. The last game, I kind of threw that one away. But other than that, I feel like Ive thrown the ball well. Everythings kind of gotten better every time.

I feel like Im back to a point now, where I feel like I can get guys out. No matter this level or the next level, I feel confident that I can get guys out anyway.

Thats why Millwood has refused to exercise his June 20 opt-out, and will remain with Triple-A Pawtucket for at least a little while longer, in the hopes that hell get the call-up to Boston this season.

I felt like I was throwing the ball well, said Millwood, when asked what went into his decision to remain with the organization. It felt like I was getting better each time out. And I enjoy it here. I feel like there could be some opportunity here in the future. If not, they made it clear that, if another team wanted me in the big leagues, then it wouldnt be a big issue.

It just seemed like a good situation to just stay here and keep pitching. Best-case scenario, I get an opportunity here. If not, possibly get an opportunity elsewhere.

My biggest thing is, this is a place that I enjoy, added Millwood. I like the organization a lot. Hopefully it works out here.

Millwood was standing in front of his locker in Pawtucket when he kept referring to that next opportunity as here. Clearly, here means Boston, a place that, given Clay Buchholz back injury, and Daisuke Matsuzakas season-ending elbow surgery, could have room for Millwoods veteran presence in the rotation at some point this season.

If Millwood does eventually get that call-up, PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler, believes his experience on the mound will be his biggest asset to Boston.

He knows how to get guys out, Arnie Beyeler. His stuffs not what it used to be, but he still knows how to get guys out. He commands the baseball. He still has quality stuff. Hes long in years a little bit, and his stuffs dwindled, but his experience, you cant teach that.

He knows how to pitch, and hes a great guy. He has great work ethic and comes out with everything hes got.

Millwood started the season in the New York Yankees organization, but opted out after the Yankees decided not to add him to their big-league roster by May 1. It was a similar type of option that the Red Sox had in place with Millwood.

But this time, Millwood envisions an eventual spot on Boston's pitching staff.

I enjoyed my time in Yankees minor-league system, said Millwood. It was just, I didnt think that situation was at a point where I think they were pretty well set where they were for a while. I didnt feel like there was much opportunity there.

The opportunity that Millwood believes he may eventually have in Boston, remains to be seen. But if it doesnt end up working out with the Red Sox, Millwood and the organization have an understanding that he can always go somewhere else if another team needs his services.

Still, he seems more than willing to wait it out in Pawtucket.

Well see what happens when it comes to that, said Millwood. If another big league team wanted me, I dont think that would be an issue. Thats the great thing about being here right now. I can pitch here, with an opportunity to go into Boston at some point, or go anywhere else at some point.

For Millwood, its a win-win. But by the sounds of it, hed rather win in Boston.

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

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.