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.