Notes: Lefties Hill and Miller pitch for a 'pen spot

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Notes: Lefties Hill and Miller pitch for a 'pen spot

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. Left-handers Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, vying for a bullpen spot, both had throwing sessions Wednesday. Hill is trying to perfect his new sidearm delivery. Miller is trying to fulfill the promise that made him the first-round pick (sixth overall) of the Tigers in 2006.

Hes bought in to the new delivery, manager Terry Francona said of Hill. He bought in last year in September, he had various angles. Just through conversations I think, as a staff, we felt like thats probably what we liked. But if a guy doesn't feel comfortable, it's certainly not going to work. He actually brought it to our attention that sidearm is his comfort zone. When he's out there playing long-toss on flat ground, that's the angle he usually throws from. It seems like if that that's where he's comfortable, it would be a lot easier. The hard thing to do is when you go out there and give up some runs and staying with it. But its something that I think has a chance to make him be a part of a major-league bullpen."

In Millers career, several pitching coaches have tinkered with his delivery, which is not what Francona is looking for from the lefty in his first season with the Sox.

"We actually don't want it to be an adjustment," Francona said. "I know he's been through a lot. He has the high leg kick. He got to the big leagues early, and because of the way he threw, understandably, teams tried to change him a little bit. I think what were going to try do is really simplify it and let that athleticism show and let that natural ability show. Just try to get him to simplify and have some fun and let that ability take over. Theres some pretty special stuff coming out of that arm. Rather than have 30-pitch side days to find the results, we want him to enjoy the journey. That's kind of what we've been telling him."

With Millers size 6-feet-7 his mechanics can become intricate, a slight change causing undesirable results.

"That's always going to be the case, Francona said. Guys like 6-feet-10 flamethrower Randy Johnson, you see some of the taller guys, it takes a while because the the most important thing is to repeat your delivery. When youve got that much body, it's hard to repeat. But, man, when he gets it right, it's awful pretty."

Adrian Gonzalez did not take batting practice on Wednesday, after increasing to 30 swings on Tuesday. It was not cause for alarm, as Francona had said previously Gonzalez had the option of taking a down day on Wednesday. He'll come back Thursday and start over again, Francona said. He's been feeling good, but that's what we wanted him to do."

Gonzalez, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his right (non-throwing) shoulder, took part in infield practice.

Closer Jonathan Papelbon was back after suffering with flu-like symptoms for several days.

Unlike some managers who have already named Opening Day starters, Francona has never made that decision this early in spring training.

It just doesnt make a lot of sense, he said. Somebodys going to have to answer a lot of questions, when wed rather get through the bulk of the spring and know for a fact that thats the way its going to happen.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

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.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”