Notes: Miller impresses Francona with strong inning

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Notes: Miller impresses Francona with strong inning

By Sean McAdam and Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Lefty Andrew Miller was impressive in an inning of relief for the Red Sox in Monday's 7-6 win over the Twins, retiring all three hitters he faced -- two by strikeout -- and appearing overpowering.

"That was extremely exciting," said Terry Francona. "That was really fun to watch and it was about as good an inning as you're going to see."

Miller lined up all the way to the third-base side of the pitching rubber, making for an unorthodox look and an uncomfortable at-bat for hitters.

"He's been moved, moved again," said Francona. "We just want to get him in a comfort zone and try to simplify it as much as we can. We want to let him throw out of the arm slot that he throws when he plays a natural catch in the outfield.

"But that was exciting to watch. That ball comes out of his hand about as pretty as you're ever going to see."

Jason Varitek caught knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the third and fourth innings, something he's done very little of since a disastrous experience in the 2004 ALCS.

With Wakefield pitching exclusively out of the bullpen -- at least for now -- Varitek will have to be ready to catch Wakefield in the middle of a game. According to Varitek, the two weren't paired last season. Varitek said he thought the last time they worked as a battery during a game came in 2009.

"We're working on a stance and getting comfortable with it," said Varitek. "I thought some of it was good. Some of it, we've got to work. But all in all, it was pretty good. It's just about practicing."

Wakefield has a specially designed catcher's mitt to have his batterymates use to catch the knuckler, but it needs to be restrung and Varitek used his regular catcher's mitt to catch him Monday.

"We're settling into what we're going back there," said Varitek. "I almost tipped over a couple of times, trying to get my feet set up because I'm setting up different."

David Ortiz hit his first home run of the season, a third-inning, three-run shot to right field that scored Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia. Although its spring training, Francona liked what he saw.

I think it counts, he said. Id much rather see guys swing good than not good. The way they go through spring training, theres no way, you dont see it very often where guys get hot, because they dont play every day. Theyre not supposed to. If we played David a week in a row, he would probably find his swing, but hed find it in February. We need guys to grow into it or build into it. I was excited because he kept that ball fair. He kept his hands in and didnt hook it foul. It was a pretty swing. Id much rather see guys swing that well.

Bobby Jenks threw 26 pitches in a morning bullpen session and will throw an inning against Philadelphia Thursday . . . Utility man Brent Dlugach had an eventful afternoon -- and not in a good way. Dlugach made two errors at shortstop and grounded into two double plays before adding a double in his third trip to the plate . . . Josh Reddicks first home run of the spring, aseventh-inning home run off James Hoey, scored Ryan Kalish and was thedifference maker in the game . . . Flashy shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias made a nice catch on Rene Tosonis sharp line drive to end the game . . . Francona on the Red Sox' comeback win, whichevened the Mayor's Cup series at one game each: "It just makes tomorrowthat much bigger. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire can say whatever hewants, but I guarantee he's feeling the pressure. I can tell."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

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Quotes, notes and stars: Buchholz hopes he's made a case to stay in rotation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over Tampa Bay Rays.

 

QUOTES:

"I didn't know I could really do that.'' - Mookie Betts, who marveled at his throw from the right field corner which nailed Kevin Kiermaier -- attempting to stretch a double into a triple -- at third in the eighth inning.

"He's playing a huge role for us right now. He's stepped in, he's built his arm strength and given us almost 13 very strong innings the last two outings.'' - John Farrell on Clay Buchholz.

"I don't know that we ever lost faith in the talent of Clay. He was in a rut for quite some time. . . But the jolt that he's given us from the spot starts he's made, he's kept us rolling.'' - Farrell on Buchholz.

"You'd have to ask John about that. I have no idea. I've tried to make the most of (the opportunity) and if a decision has to be made, make it a hard one.'' - Buchholz, when asked if he's made a case to stay in the rotation.

 

NOTES:

* The Red Sox improved to a season-best 17 games over .500

* The win was just the fourth for the Red Sox this season when scoring two or one runs.

* The win was the first for Clay Buchholz as a starter since May 9.

* David Ortiz moved into sixth place on the Red Sox' all-time hit list, passing Bobby Doerr with 2.043 hits.

* Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games and has reached base in 16 straight.

* Andrew Benintendi recorded his eighth multi-hit game, the first Red Sox player to do so in his first 20 games since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007

* Mookie Betts recorded his 10th outdield assist, placing him third among major league right fielders.

* Craig Kimbrel has a 1.08 ERA in save situations this year and 6.06 in non-save situations.

* Kimbrel has recorded a save in each of his last five appearances.

 

STARS:

1) Clay Buchholz

To say that this was Buchholz's best start of the season is to damn with faint praise, since there haven't been many good ones. But this was very good: 6 1/3 innings, one run on five hits with a season-high nine strikeouts.

2) Mookie Betts

Betts has only been a pro outfielder for a little more than two years, but that didn't look to be the case when he fired a strike from the right field corner to cut down a baserunner at third with one out in the eighth inning.

3) Craig Kimbrel

Kimbrel was dominant in the ninth, protecting a one-run lead with two strikeouts and a soft lineout to left.

 

First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

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First impressions: Buchholz's strong start helps lead Red Sox to 2-1 win

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays:

 

1) If this was the last start for Clay Buchholz, it was a good one.

Buchholz was brilliant in 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one run while striking out a season high nine hitters.

After contributing little in the first four months of the season, Buchholz has helped out in a big way in the last four weeks -- first out of the bullpen and more recently, in three spot starts.

He's made sone adjustments with his release point, giving him far better command within the strike zone, and unsurprisingly, far better results.

Now, the question is: how will be used going forward?

 

2) Monday night, Andrew Benintendi thwarted the Rays in the late inning. On Tuesday, it was Mookie Betts's turn.

Benintendi's catch to rob Steve Souza Jr. of a two-run homer in the eighth was the highlight seen 'round the world. But it's possible that a throw from Betts was, in its own way, just as important.

Like Benintendi's magic trick Monday, this one took place with one out in the eighth inning. Brad Ziegler retired the leadoff hitter before Kevin Kiermaier chopped a ball into the right field corner. Betts chased down the ball as Kiermaier rounded second and headed to third.

The throw from Betts, from the right field corner, was a strike as Travis Shaw slapped a tag on the runner.

Forget, for a minute, the wisdom of someone already in scoring position attempting to take an extra base while trailing by a run and instead focus on the magic turned in by the Red Sox outfield in successive nights.

 

3) Robbie Ross Jr. has become a significant part of the bullpen.

Ross took over for Buchholz in the seventh, with lefty Corey Dickerson and righthanded-hitting Bobby Wilson due.

Ross overpowered Dickerson and got him swinging at a third strike before retiring Wilson on a routine bouncer to third.

It marked the fourth straight scoreless appearance by Ross in relief and ninth straight on the road.

Ross probably doesn't have the pure stuff to become the main option in the eighth inning. But he has had enough success to be someone that John Farrell trusts in some high leverage situations and matchups.