Notes: Miller just good enough versus Orioles

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Notes: Miller just good enough versus Orioles

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Left-hander Andrew Miller wasn't dominant Thursday night, but still managed to record his third win in four starts as a member of the Red Sox.

The left-hander went five innings and threw 97 pitches, giving up three runs on six hits, with four walks and no strikeouts and left the game with a 5-3 lead. He ended up getting the win as the Sox pulled away for a 10-4 victory over the Orioles.

High pitch count, no strikeouts, some walks, manager Terry Francona said of Millers outing. Sometimes theres some moving parts that hes still working on. Saying that, he limited the damage, controlled the game, which is good.

I think theres more in there. I think he thinks so, too.

Miller, now 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA, knows he still has work to do. His percentage of strikes Thursday night was only 58 percent, compared to a percentage of 63 in his four starts overall.

"We've won the games I've pitched. I'm certainly satisfied with that," Miller said. "Ultimately, efficiency and throwing strikes, I certainly have work to do and we'll put that work in."

Franconas first big-league manager was Dick Williams, who led the Sox in their 1967 Impossible Dream season. Francona was a rookie for the Expos when Williams was their manager in 1981.

Williams, well-known for his tough, no-nonsense approach, died Thursday at the age of 82 at a hospital near his home in Henderson, NV.

He was a brilliant manager. Everybody knew it, Francona said. I actually spent more time talking to him when he became a special assistant with the Yankees. I went to watch a B game once over in Tampa and he was talking to me, and I was like, Damn, Dick, I played for you and you wouldnt talk to me. And we laughed like crazy.

"He was a really good baseball man.

Francona made his big league debut under Williams in Houston on Aug. 19, 1981.

I was supposed to start, Francona said. Nolan Ryan was pitching. That was when they had the air traffic controllers strike and I got to the Astrodome late. So I got to the game in the fifth inning. Found my way into the dugout. He said, Kid, youre leading off next inning. No hello, no nothing, that was it."

There was one good thing about his late arrival: He didn't have to face Ryan.

"They took Nolan out," Francona said. "We had just come back from the players' strike" and Ryan was lifted because he was still working his way back into shaoe.

"Then I remember my third game," Francona said. "I didn't get a bunt down. He met me at the dugout and reminded me I better get the bunt down or Id be doing it in Triple-A Denver.

"I also remember making a baserunning play where I took an extra base. And I just happened to look up when I got to second. He was standing up like he reacted positively. I remember thinking this guy cares. He probably didnt want you to know that. But I remember thinking, 'All right.'

Dustin Pedroia's three-run homer was his third home run in his last eight games. He went 2-for-5 and extended his on-base streak to 21 games, going back to June 15. It is the longest active streak in the A.L., and the third of his career of at least 20 games.

Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-5, extending his on-base streak to 19 games.

With Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez each homering, it is the first time the top three batters in the Sox lineup have homered since June 15, 2008, when Ellsbury, Pedroia, and J.D. Drew did so.

Jed Lowrie remains on the DL, since June 17, with a left shoulder strain.

Got to get that strength a little more equal on both sides, Francona said. Hes not there yet. Hes improving, but hes not there yet.

Francona is pleased with the work hes been getting from the catching tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek.

Saltalamacchia kind of corralled it there, Francona said. We were out in Anaheim and Saltalamacchia had kind of a rough day and things kind of snowballed and I think 'Tek helped a little bit taking some of the load off.

"Now hes going out there playing. When hes in the lineup, hes running the game, hes seeing pitches. Hell drive the ball. Between he and 'Tek, were getting some production . . . Hes throwing the ball better. Its been fun to watch . . .

"I think 'Teks helped him a lot. Thats not always the case where the backup player helps the starter. I think hes lucky to have 'Tek."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

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].”

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

Sandoval’s offseason transformation doesn't guarantee he's Sox starting third baseman

BOSTON - The weight room, as much as Instagram, has been Pablo Sandoval’s home in the offseason leading up to the 2017 season.

His change in diet and routine have clearly led to visible results, at least in terms of appearance. His play is yet to be determined. But his manager and teammates have taken notice.

“Compliments to Pablo,” John Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner. “He’s done a great job with the work that he’s put in, the commitment he’s made. He’s reshaped himself, that’s apparent. He knows there’s work to be done to regain an everyday job at third base. So, we’ll see how that unfolds. We’re not looking for him to be someone he’s not been in the past. Return to that level of performance.”

Farrell noted that Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are the other two players in contention for time at third base and while others, such as prospect Rafael Devers, may get time there in the spring, those are the only three expected to compete for the job.

“The beauty of last spring is that there’s a note of competition in camp,” Farrell said. “And that was born out of third base last year [when Travis Shaw beat out Sandoval at the third base]. That won’t change.”

Sandoval's 2016 season ended after shoulder surgery in April. 

While the manager has to be cautiously optimistic, Sandoval’s teammates can afford to get their hopes up.

“Pablo is definitely going to bounce back,” Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com “Especially with the weight he’s lost and the motivation he has to prove a lot of people wrong, to prove the fans wrong.

“He’s been a great player for his whole career. He’s not a bad player based on one year. Playing in Boston the first year is tough, so, hopefully this year he’ll be better.”

Prior to Sandoval’s abysmal 2015, his first season in Boston, when he hit .245 with 47 RBI in 126 games, the 2012 World Series MVP was a career .294 hitter who averaged 15 home runs and 66 RBI a year.

If Bogaerts is right and Sandoval can be that player again, that will be a huge lift in filling in the gap David Ortiz left in Boston’s offense.