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Kevin Millwood looking to make MLB return with Red Sox, declines June opt-out

06.28.11 at 11:06 pm ET
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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Kevin Millwood was signed to a minor-league deal by the Red Sox on May 19 to provide organizational starting pitching depth at a time when John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka were headed to the disabled list. While the latter will remain on the DL for the rest of the season and Clay Buchholz is currently taking a turn in the infirmary with a back issue, starting depth is again looking like it could be an issue.

In his first five starts playing for the Sox Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, Millwood had emerged as a quality low-risk signing, going 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA while also allowing two runs or fewer in four of those five starts.

Tuesday night’s contest against Rochester, the Twins’ little brother in Triple-A, suggested that Millwood is not quite where Andrew Miller was two weeks ago. The veteran right-hander allowed season-highs in hits (nine) and runs allowed (six) over four innings, his fewest innings pitched since a low pitch count cut short his PawSox debut to 2 2/3 frames on June 1.

The 36-year-old shrugged the most during a five-run second inning in which he allowed six runners to reach on one walk, two singles, two doubles and a triple. He later allowed a solo home run in the fourth on a 3-1 offspeed pitch to close out the Red Wings’ scoring. An eight-run comeback by the PawSox saved Millwood from getting his first loss in the Red Sox organization.

His fastball topped out at 89 on a strikeout of former PawSox first baseman Aaron Bates in the first inning, while his slider hovered in the low 80s and his curveball was around the high 70s. Although his stuff hasn’t been overpowering, it was at least effective prior to Tuesday night.

But according to Millwood, who called the start “just one of those nights,” control began to be a bit of a problem in his latest start.

“It was a bit of an issue,” he said. “Left some balls up and just didn’t make pitches when I needed to. That was it. … Didn’t throw quality strikes.”

That being said, Millwood had a chance to leave the Red Sox organization altogether a little over a week ago. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reported that Millwood had a June 20 opt-out clause that he chose not to utilize at a time when he was pitching well enough to merit consideration for a big league rotation in another organization. (It is worth remembering that the righty opted out of a minor-league deal with the Yankees back in May after failing to be called up to the big club.)

On Tuesday, Millwood wouldn’t confirm the exact date of the opt-out but said that it had come and gone and that he had decided to stay with the organization because of his experience thus far.

“It’s been great,” Millwood said. “I’ve had a good time. Take away today and I feel like I was throwing the ball better every time out up until today. So far, it’s been a good experience. … It would be a great opportunity to play for this organization [at the majors]. So I wanted to see what would happen.”

What certainly could happen is Millwood proves to the Sox and the rest of the league that Tuesday night’s performance was just a fluke and that he can return to the form he displayed not only this year at Pawtucket but also as late as 2009 when he posted a 13-10 record with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts for Texas. (Those numbers dipped to 4-16 and 5.10 last season for the Orioles, leading to a lack of major-league suitors in the offseason.) But Millwood refused to entertain any thought of playing for a different organization than the one he signed with a month-and-a-half ago.

“Best-case scenario [I’d make the majors] with this team,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

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