'Poised' Miller earns first win for Sox

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'Poised' Miller earns first win for Sox

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PITTSBURGH When the Red Sox acquired Andrew Miller from Florida last offseason, this is what they were hoping they'd get . . . .eventually.

Miller pitched with a lot of poise, manager Terry Francona said of the left-hander's six-inning performance Sunday, which led the way to a 4-2 victory over the Pirates. We didnt make some plays behind him. We didnt finish some plays, but he had some poise and good stuff and got us far enough, our bullpen came in and did tremendous.

I thought it was really encouraging. I was really pleased.

Although he had baserunners in each of the first three innings, Miller, now 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA since his recall from Pawtucket, kept the Pirates off the scoreboard until the fourth.

He opened the fourth by hitting Neil Walker with a pitch. Matt Diaz then reached on an error by shortstop Marco Scutaro. After a flyout by Lyle Overbay, Walker scored on Ronny Cedenos sacrifice fly.

Miller led off the fifth by walking pitcher James McDonald, then giving up three consecutive hits, with McDonald scoring. But Garrett Jones was thrown out when he overran third. Walker struck out, looking at a slider, and Diaz flied out.

That was all the scoring Miller allowed.

It felt pretty good, Miller said. Kind of battled through a lot of innings. Managed to get by and they made some nice plays behind me. We'll take a win anytime we get it.

The fifth . . . fortunately Jones overran the bag, so that was a nice out to pick up. I think I was able to get soft contact when we wanted it and the guys made some great plays.

Miller is trying not to look too far ahead. A former No. 1 draft pick (sixth overall) by the Tigers in 2006, he has spent nearly as much time in the minor leagues as he has in the big leagues after making his major-league debut less than three weeks after signing.

"I'm taking it one start at a time and preparing for each one the same, he said. Kind of go out there and throw strikes and give us a chance to win games.

Miller worked with PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur, adjusting his pregame routine, as he prepared for his big-league starts.

"When I came up, I was confident the way I was throwing the ball in Triple-A and felt confident it would carry over here, he said. No reason to change anything, just fine
tune things and work between outings, but ultimately things are going in the right direction. Changed my pregame routine up a little bit and its helped me get the game started and helped me be aggressive. Feel settled in from the start.

At 6-feet-7 and lanky, Millers delivery has a lot of moving parts, which pitching coaches have tried to tinker with over the years. That has not been the case with the Sox, he has said, and that's allowed him to focus on his pitching and his pregame routine rather than his mechanics.

"I wish it was that simple, but so far the adjustments have worked and just try to keep it going, he said. It's been a good place for me and the work I've done has panned out so far. For the most part, that bullpen routine is the biggest change. Ultimately though, I just have to throw the ball over plate and make good pitches."

In his second start, he stopped a four-game losing streak, the Sox longest since a four-game slide May 29June 1 and their second longest of the season after starting out 0-6.

"Im just going out there to win every game, Miller said. "I'm going to do the same thing regardless of what happened the previous two, four, 10 games. Try to pitch as deep into the game and give us a chance to win."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

Are Red Sox entering spring training with fewer questions than ever?

BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.

In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.

In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?

This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.

How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?

Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.

And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.

 

Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?

The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.

However, that doesn’t guarantee he gets his job back.

“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”

Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.

Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?

Who’s going to start at catcher?

Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.

Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.

Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.

Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.

They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.

Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.

“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.

And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.

“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”

“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."

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.