PAWTUCKET, R.I. – As he rehabbed from his elbow strain with a start for Triple-A Pawtucket Tuesday night, John Lackey certainly grabbed his fair share of headlines. But it may be a similarly veteran right-hander who will head the PawSox pitching staff for the longer haul.
Kevin Millwood, who appeared at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium for the first time in uniform Tuesday night, was signed by the Red Sox to provide the team with organizational depth at the starting pitcher position after Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka had already gone down with injuries. The 36-year-old, who had opted out of a contract with the Yankees on May 1 after failing to make the big club, said that when his agent told him Boston was on the line, he knew he had to listen.
“When they called, it was a good opportunity for me,” Millwood said. “I was more than willing to stay at home and relax for the summer. When you get a team of this caliber that has some interest and will give me a chance, you’re in a better situation.”
Millwood had made three starts in the Yankees organization (16 innings pitched, eight earned runs in those starts) before breaking ties with the club and signing with its rival on May 19. Since that day, he had been in Fort Meyers for extended spring training where he topped out at a 60-pitch throwing session before getting the call up to Triple-A, where he is expected to start Wednesday night.
That kind of experience brought a little ease to PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler.
“He’s been pitching over in [Yankees Triple-A affiliate] Scranton I know that,” said Beyeler. “So he should be wound up, ready to go. He’ll throw five innings, 75-80 pitches and see how he does.”
Millwood said on Tuesday that his best-case scenarios over the short term are relatively low while his goals for the 2011 season are quite a bit higher.
“Tomorrow just go out, throw the ball well and compete,” he said. “Obviously in the long haul, it’d be end up in Boston and pitching well. Every outing I have here is going to help me in my way back.”
As for exactly how he plans on reaching those scenarios rests solely on how he can perform for Pawtucket, beginning with that first fateful outing on Wednesday.
“It all depends on how I pitch here. Whatever happens, happens.”