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Kevin Millar on M&M: Red Sox have ‘very similar clubhouse to what we had’

06.28.13 at 2:00 pm ET

MLB Network host Kevin Millar joined Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, and the former Red Sox first baseman, who finished spending much of his week in Boston and at Fenway, had praise for the Red Sox in general and a pair of players in particular: John Lackey and Dustin Pedroia.

Millar was in attendance for Lackey’€™s dominant outing Wednesday and gushed about the right-hander who has been the Red Sox’€™ best starter in recent weeks.

‘€œHe’€™s back,’€ Millar said. ‘€œHis velocity is at 94, hitting 95, and he’€™s got the eye of the Tiger. He was injured when he was throwing ‘€” he had that rough year [2011], then he had surgery ‘€” now you’€™re looking at a healthy John Lackey. That’€™s a huge, huge addition because you have Jon Lester, you have [Clay] Buchholz, you went out and signed [Ryan] Dempster, you got [Felix] Doubront.

‘€œNow you have Lackey as the old Lackey? That’€™s what is going to keep this team going.’€

Millar also referenced the time he spent in the clubhouse as Fenway this week when mentioning Pedroia. The second baseman’€™s preparation in particular is representative of what Millar credited with spurring much of the team’€™s success in 2013.

‘€œDustin Pedroia cares about the wins and the losses, and it shows. There’€™s not a lot that he can give up. He’€™s 5-foot-7. He can’€™t do a lot of things, but he’€™s one of the best players in Major League Baseball. He’€™s got the heart of a tiger,’€ Millar said. ‘€œThis group, the preparation, you look in all these guys’€™ eyes. I’€™m walking around, and it’€™s a very similar clubhouse to what we had. Just a bunch of baseball players, long beards. They’€™re gamers and they care about each other.’€

The past two weeks, Millar has insisted Will Middlebrooks is the Red Sox third baseman and that the team had to decide between Stephen Drew and Jose Iglesias at shortstop.

Now that Middlebrooks has been demoted indefinitely to Triple-A Pawtucket, however, Millar gave credit where credit is due to Iglesias.

‘€œHe went out in the offseason and got a little stronger. He’€™s not swinging a butter knife anymore,’€ Millar said. ‘€œHe’€™s got some offense. He’€™s not just a guy with some tremendous hands. Watching him, you start to see the game slow down.

‘€œIglesias forced his way to play ‘€” forced his way into the lineup. Is he your everyday third baseman? Right now he is. But future-wise, he’€™s ultimately going to be in the middle. But he has forced John Farrell and the Red Sox to basically show their hand.’€

According to Millar, this is another test in Middlebrooks’€™ growth. He has to prove he can handle it.

‘€œThis will make him tougher. This will make him stronger. You have to go through some adversity in this game,’€ Millar said. ‘€œRarely do you just get called up as the prospect and, ‘€˜I’€™m just going to be the third baseman for the next 10 years, and I’€™m going to hit 25, 30 homers,’€™ and blah, blah, blah.

‘€œNow it’€™s how he handles this adversity. Go down there with a good attitude, figure out your holes, your weaknesses, work hard. He’€™ll be back up.’€

Below are more highlights from the conversation. To listen to the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

On Brian Cashman telling Alex Rodriguez to ‘€œshut up’€: ‘€œDid he overreact? Of course. If he could take that back he would — he did, he apologized.

‘€œBut I like it — it’€™s refreshing. ‘€¦ I love Brian Cashman. What he’€™s had to deal with over the years, I think he’€™s a great GM. He apologized yesterday. The A-Rod scene turned into a bigger deal because it’€™s Alex Rodriguez and all eyes are on him at all times, but listen, we all make mistakes. It was refreshing, in my opinion.’€

On the Tigers: ‘€œIn the American League, Detroit is the best club. You look at the starting pitching, one through five, [and] offensively they’€™re just a darn good club. They have holes bullpen-wise, and I thought they’€™d be good enough offensively to get by, but they have to win these close games.

‘€œThey tried the Jose Valverde [at closer] situation, and that didn’€™t work out, so they’€™re going to make a move. ‘€¦ It’€™s like what they did last year a little bit — let the White Sox hang around a little bit and next thing you know, they’€™re in the World Series again. I think the Detroit Tigers are in the top two teams. I don’€™t want to discount the Rangers, and I don’€™t want to discount the Oakland A’€™s, along with the Red Sox.”

Read More: Alex Rodriguez, brian cashman, Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia
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