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

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 'a pitch or two from finishing the job' vs. Rays

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"Part of that job is, when you miss, you have to miss to the extreme.'' - John Farrell on the role of eighth-inning reliever Clay Buchholz, who mislocated a fastball to Evan Longoria.

"We're putting ourselves in position to close games out and yet we've found ourselves a pitch or two from finishing the job.'' - Farrell on the team's bullpen woes.

"Fastball. I was trying to throw it up-and-away, and I pulled it, more inner-third. That's a spot where he hits the ball a long way.'' - Clay Buchholz on the game-winning homer by Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The Rays and Sox have played 21 one-run games in the lasr four seasons and four in the last week.

* David Ortiz's sacrifice fly in the sixth was his 26th go-ahead RBI, fourth-best in the A.L.

* Xander Bogaerts collected his 500th career hit, and became the fifth Red Sox player to reach that milestone before turning 24.

* Brock Holt's double in the fifth lifted his average to .337 with two outs.

* Hanley Ramirez's home run was his first against Tampa Bay since May 21, 2011 when he was with the Marlins.

* Ramirez has 19 extra-base hits in the last 27 home games.

* Dustin Pedroia was 1-for-3 and and is now 15-for-his-last-19 at Fenway.

* The Sox dropped to 7-37 when they score three runs or fewer.

* Brad Ziegler was unavailable, suffering from the flu.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

It wouldn't be a Rays win over the Red Sox without the third baseman doing some damage. Sure enough, he smoked a tape-measure shot over everything in left in the eighth to provide the winning margin for the visitors.

2) Luke Maile

Drew Pomeranz struck him out twice, but Maile more than got revenge in the seventh with a two-run homer into the Monster Seats to tie the game.

3) Hanley Ramirez

The first baseman had a three-hit night, including a solo homer and a run-scoring single, accounting for two of the three Red Sox runs.

 

First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

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First impressions: Longoria makes Buchholz pay in Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Rays

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay:

* There's a steep learning curve for a set-up man, as Clay Buchholz discovered.

Although he's pitched out of the bullpen for the last couple of months, most of those appearances weren't of the high leverage variety. More often than not, the Sox had a sizeable lead, or Buchholz was brought in earlier in the game. Or they were behind and he was mopping up.

But Tuesday was different. The Rays had battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and after Matt Barnes got the final out in that inning, Buchholz came in to start the eighth.

After getting Kevin Kiermaier on a groundout to lead off the inning, Buchholz threw a four-seamer to Evan Longoria that the Tampa Bay third baseman launched toward the Charles River, clearing everything and putting the Rays up by a run.

It was a reminder that in late innings of close games, one pitch, with missed location, can really hurt.

 

* Hanley Ramirez knocked in two runs. He was sort of lucky.

In the fifth inning, Ramirez hit a twisting opposite-field fly ball down the right field line. It landed just past the Pesky Pole in right, measured at 307 feet, the shortest homer in baseball this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Then, an inning later, Ramirez hit a pop fly that drifted into shallow right. Three Rays defenders converged -- first baseman, second baseman and right fielder -- and somehow the ball dropped in between all three for a run-scoring single.

Two cheap hits, two RBI.

At times, you'll see hitters mash the ball, only to have it hit right at someone for an out. Rotten luck, and all.

Tuesday night, Ramirez got to experience the flip side of that.

 

* Drew Pomeranz had an excellent outing -- until his final pitch of the night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Pomeranz had allowed a single run on four hits while walking two and striking out eight.

He had retired 10 of the previous 11 hitters he had faced, and while he was approaching his 100th pitch, showed no evidence of tiring.

Then, Pomernaz hung a curveball to No. 9 hitter Luke Maile -- with two strikes, no less -- and Maile hit into the Monster Seats for a game-tying, two-run homer.

It was the first homer on a curveball allowed by Pomeranz in 153 innings this season, and all of a sudden, the outing wasn't so special.