Notes: Miller impresses Francona with strong inning

Notes: Miller impresses Francona with strong inning
February 28, 2011, 10:29 pm
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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