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Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘I know Papi – he gives you his heart on his sleeve’

04.26.13 at 1:28 pm ET

Kevin Millar talked with Mut & Merloni Friday about Clay Buchholz‘s historically strong start, what Will Middlebrooks may need to do to break out of his April slump, and Millar’s reaction to David Ortiz‘ speech at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Millar said Buchholz has begun to locate his pitches better this year and work more confidently around the strike zone.

“Sometimes the confidence factor takes a little while, but he’s added a cutter. He’s always had a nice heavy baseball that he throws between 93 and 95. Great straight changeup. ‘€¦ He’s got a great arsenal of pitches along with a great curveball, and now you’re looking at a kid who’s knowing how to pitch and also is locating,” Millar said. “That’s the biggest thing when you’re talking about a pitcher who’s found it. He’s starting to paint stuff.”

Millar has first-hand experience with Buchholz’ array of pitches: He was part of the Orioles team that Buchholz no-hit in his second big league start on Sept. 1, 2007.

“It was a bad scouting report by the Baltimore Orioles,” Millar said of that day. “No one said anything about his straight changeup, and he does throw it to righties, and he had that James Shields-type changeup that day. He just threw a great game.”

Millar also is selling Boston Strong shirts on his website, kevinmillar.com, to benefit the Greg Hill foundation, which has been donating to the victims of the Boston Marathon attacks. While he wasn’t in town for Ortiz’ pregame address to the Boston fans on Saturday, Millar said he knows Ortiz’ words, even the profane ones, came from the heart.

“He gives you everything he has. Tremendous heart,” Millar said. “When he was holding that microphone, it’s not easy — you’ve got 36,000 people, he’s in the middle of the stadium, there’s no script, and you saw him speaking from his heart. You feel like you’re speaking to the fans, and you don’t realize sometimes that it’s [on television], but you saw the lip quivering when he dropped the curse word, but you knew that was from the passion. And I know Papi — he gives you his heart on his sleeve. It shocked everybody, but he did it, and he did it for the love of the city and the passion that he brings daily.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox coverage, go to weei.com/redsox.

On Middlebrooks struggling to hit: “That’s the toughest thing about being a right-hander at Fenway. You’re looking at a young kid that’s got to make some adjustments. ‘€¦ It’s just one of these Aprils right now. It’s tough because you get in this pull mode for home games because that’s where your money’s at, it seems like, but you’ve just got to get back to swinging at strikes. I think that’s the one adjustment — get back, watch some video, watch your pitch selection. You might be getting yourself more so than worrying about pulling the ball when you’re swinging at breaking balls out of the zone, fastballs out of the zone.”

On Joel Hanrahan closing when he returns: “I think Hanrahan’s your closer, period. You don’t lose your job because of injury at that level. ‘€¦ [AndrewBailey right now is your eight-hole guy when Hanrahan’s healthy, in my opinion. That’s when you have depth, when you can lose a guy like Hanrahan and have a guy like Bailey that’s had success and steps into that role. I think with all healthy, you need Hanrahan closing games and you need Bailey in the eight-hole, because bridging that gap to the closer, those four outs, those six outs, those 7-8-9 innings, that’s where the game is won.”

On how much leeway to give Hanrahan: “If it’s a guy that’s got location problems, then the leash becomes short. But I think Hanrahan, with the velocity, the power pitcher that he is, he’s a closer. Most of your good closers, they don’t beat themselves, so you look at his location and you’re looking at success. I don’t think he’s going to have that short leash this early in the season.”

On the Astros’ low payroll and dismal outlook: “It’s a tough pill to swallow, it really is. The bright side is you’ve got some young guys getting some dirt in their spikes. ‘€¦ It’s a tough pill to swallow for the fan base, believe me, I can relate with that, but at some point they might have a few stars that we don’t know yet. They’re going to have a rough year. They’re switching leagues immediately. It doesn’t get any easier. You just have to hope they can compete on the pitcher’s mound. That’s what keeps the Rays around. ‘€¦ You just hope the Astros have enough arms to compete. ‘€¦ That’s when it’s tough, is when you get a ton of bullpen work, and they’ll get crushed on the pitching side of it.”

On Alfredo Aceves: “At times you go through the Manny Ramirez things and they drive people crazy, but he had 38 [home runs] and 125 RBIs. That was my question about Alfredo Aceves — is he worth the hassle? I said you’ve just got to ask a simple question of somebody on a team — either you’re in or out. ‘€¦ Unfortunately for himself, he had a tough time figuring it out. He’s actually got some tools to pitch out of the bullpen in long relief, to spot start for the Red Sox, but unfortunately, that attitude will wear thin in a clubhouse.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Kevin Millar,
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