|Why Andrew Miller will be starting in the minors||03.25.11 at 4:45 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — There were plenty of unknowns when left-hander Andrew Miller signed his minor league contract with the Red Sox in December. No one could say with certainty where the 25-year-old — a wildly talented pitcher whose career results have never matched his potential — would start the season. Nor could anyone say in which role — starter or reliever — his work would occur.
But one thing was clear. For both Miller and the Sox, the goal was not trying to get Miller to maximize his season-opening contributions. Instead, in both the contract that they signed and the choices they were making, the pitcher and team were committed to Miller’s long-term development, hoping to put the former first-rounder in a position where he is most likely to achieve sustainable success.
And so, earlier this week, the Sox talked with Miller about their plans for him to start the year. After he threw 7 2/3 innings in seven spring training games, forging a 10.57 ERA while striking out six, walking four and allowing 11 hits, the Sox told Miller that he will go to minor league camp to be stretched out. He will work as a starter in Triple-A Pawtucket to open the year.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Miller’s most likely big league role in 2011 will be as a starter. He could still be either a starter or reliever, depending on how his work in the minors goes. But for a pitcher who has endured constant mechanical tinkering over the years, it was agreed that the best course of action was to give him the stability of a five-day routine on the mound that will include a side session. The idea, said manager Terry Francona, is to let Miller get repetition with his delivery.
“We thought about a lot of different stuff — pitching him every three days,” said Francona. “I think he agreed [with the idea of being a starter], because he can not only pitch in a game but then he can have a side day. I think he was really open to that. He can always pitch in the bullpen. But he gets starters’ innings, he’s stretched out, and it’s good for him. The more reps he gets, the better.”
As a starter, Miller will focus on fastball command and he will also have more of an opportunity to work with his changeup. That said, Francona believes that Miller’s slider is good enough that, whether he starts or relieves, the changeup is of less significance for the 6-foot-7 lefty than than it might be for other pitchers.
“He needs to command his fastball and work on his changeup. I thought his breaking ball was good right from the get-go. He’s got a nice feel for it. Almost a little surprising with that length in his body. He just really is comfortable with that pitch,” said Francona. “He’s just got to work on location with the fastball and certainly work on the changeup, but if he throws his fastball and breaking ball, he’s going to be fine. … He doesn’t need that third pitch as much as most pitchers do.”
While Miller’s final spring training stats were less than eye-opening, at times, his stuff was. He flashed a high-octane fastball and that wipeout slider that certainly have plus potential if he can command them and repeat them. Much as it was when Miller arrived in camp with the Sox, the future offers plenty of possibilities, but without a clear-cut path forward.
“If he pitches like we hope, he can be anything he wants. There’s a lot to like there,” said Francona. “I think we’re fortunate enough when we talk to him that he’s mature enough to understand that Opening Day wasn’t the end-all, the finishing line. Sometimes you see someone with that much potential and you don’t want to lose him and then the season starts and he doesn’t get to pitch enough and things don’t go right. I think this has a chance to really work out well.”
|Daisuke Matsuzaka effective, efficient but Cards rout Sox||03.20.11 at 4:10 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka was effective and efficient on Sunday but his two-out walk with none on in the 6th opened the door for a 10-run sixth as the Cardinals routed the Red Sox, 10-3, Sunday afternoon at City of Palms Park.
[Red Sox-Cardinals boxscore].
Matsuzaka allowed three hits and two earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out four. He threw 79 pitches, 50 for strikes, in his longest outing of the spring. Matsuzaka, who is now 0-2 with a 6.05 ERA this spring, needed just 64 pitches to get through five innings.
“I thought he had good tempo, threw strikes,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s two in a row now so he’s starting to get geared up. He probably could’ve gone a hitter or two more. I wanted to see Andrew face a lefty and it kind of fell apart from there.”
[Francona explains why he was happy with Matsuzaka’s outing Sunday vs. the Cardinals.]
Matsuzaka was coming off a start last Tuesday in Lakeland against the Tigers in which he allowed just two hits over five shutout innings, walking one and striking out five.
“I thought the last outing he had pretty good life too,” Francona said. “Again, you’re getting to that point in spring training where they’re probably gotten through the dead-arm period and they’re starting to get built up now where we’re getting pretty close to the start of the season.”
Francona pulled Matsuzaka for lefty reliever Andrew Miller, who struggled badly. The former No. 1 pick of the Tigers in 2006 faced six batters and didn’t retire a batter, allowing four hits and six runs while walking two.
“He walked the first hitter and that’s kind of a reminder when coming out of the bullpen of how important it is to attack the strike zone,” Francona said of Miller. “He had an infield single and a bloop and it kind of fell apart from there.”
Scott Atchison came in and allowed a bases-loaded double to Pujols to make it, 9-0, before Holiday followed with another run-scoring double. The Cardinals had 11 consecutive batters reach in the sixth with two outs.
|Red Sox weekend in review: All things Adrian||03.14.11 at 8:14 am ET|
|Marlins manager: Andrew Miller will benefit from change of scenery||03.12.11 at 3:56 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Edwin Rodriguez knew that the talent remained present. So, too, did the work ethic and the craving for success.
But while the potential of pitcher Andrew Miller was “obvious,” in the words of Rodriguez, it was just as apparent that it was going to be difficult for him to achieve success with the Marlins. Rodriguez, who was elevated from Florida’s bench coach to interim manager last June, was first-hand witness to the struggles of the 6-foot-7 lefty, who came to the Marlins (in the deal that shipped superstar Miguel Cabrera to Detroit) with enormous hype but was traded away this winter after having failed to live up to it.
Miller was 1-5 with an 8.54 ERA for the Marlins in nine big league appearances last year. His command (7.2 walks per nine innings) were a mess, a result of his having been pulled in any number of directions during his Florida tenure.
“They tried a lot of things with him. Of course, he would agree with everything they were doing,” said Rodriguez, who shed the interim title this offseason. “Everybody was pulling, is still pulling, for him. He’s a great guy. He cares and he works. He cares about going out there and performing well. It was a matter of performance. I think a change of scenery will hopefully help him.”
The very early returns on his spring suggest that might be possible. The Sox have asked Miller not to think about his mechanics this spring and rather to find a motion that feels natural and comfortable while trusting his stuff to get opponents out. Thus far this spring, that plan has been working. His fastball has effortlessly sat at 93-96 mph, though one scout noted that it has touched as high as 99 mph. His breaking ball has also looked good this spring.
Miller has turned in shutout appearances in three of his four relief outings this spring, and most notably, in 5 1/3 innings, he has struck out five and walked none (though the scout did note that, in his last outing on Thursday, he struggled with his command, falling behind in counts but ultimately coming back to retire the Rays batters he faced). The Marlins have noted his performances, and enjoyed them from afar.
“He cares. He’s not afraid to work. That’s why everybody is pulling for him,” said Rodriguez. “It was just one of those situations where you change places, and maybe everything starts clicking. It seems like it’s happening for him. Good for him.”
|Francona on Daisuke: ‘We’re not going to pack in the season on March 10′||03.10.11 at 4:56 pm ET|
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — For the second time in as many outings, Daisuke Matsuzaka produced a pitching line filled with crooked numbers. Five days after allowing seven runs (five earned) in three innings to the Marlins, the right-hander permitted five more runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Rays.
He walked two and struck out a pair, and Matsuzaka struggled with his command out of the gate — most notably in a first inning in which he walked the first two hitters of the game and threw just 10 of 23 pitches for strikes. Though he at times flashed good stuff (in the second and fourth innings), the results were once again poor.
While that is rarely noteworthy in spring training starts, it was slightly harder to dismiss Matsuzaka’s outing, since he’d said after his March 5 clunker that he intended to approach Thursday’s contest against the Rays (which the Sox lost, 8-6, on a walkoff homer) as a game in which results mattered.
He qualified that notion on Thursday, saying that he had indeed concentrated at times on improving the effectiveness of specific pitches (his changeup and cutter), and noting that he has felt mechanically sound in side sessions. Still, he did not shy from the idea that his performance was disappointing, a continuation of a spring in which he has an 11.42 ERA in three starts.
“At this point, I’m not too worried about [the performance] but I feel it’s not great,” Matsuzaka, who threw 62 pitches in the game and then another dozen in the bullpen, said through an interpreter. “At this point, I’m not really satisfied with my pitches. I need to narrow the gap between how I pitch and what others expect. … At this point, games are very important and the result is very important.”
Manager Terry Francona, however, disagreed. While he made clear that the preference is always to see pitchers excel on the mound, he also cautioned that it was premature to sound any alarm bells about the pitcher.
“It was probably one of those outings where he made it harder than it’s supposed to be,” said Francona. “I don’t think we’re going to pack in the season after March .”
OTHER POSTGAME NOTES
—Carl Crawford got through his first game against the Rays since signing with the Sox, going 1-for-3 with an infield single while also making a diving catch. Though he had been a touch anxious before the game to see if he would be treated as a villain was instead received warmly by the crowd in his former spring training home.
“I just tried to tune [the fans] out. I didn’t really hear too much. I kind of figured there would be some things yelled at me, but it really wasn’t much being said,” said Crawford. “They were better than I expected. It wasn’t bad at all.”
Informed that it sounded like he was mostly cheered, Crawford chuckled.
“That might have been Red Sox fans,” he said.
—Mike Cameron, who had been sidelined since March 5 by tendinitis in his knee, went 1-for-4 and played the entire game as the designated hitter.
“It felt good to put the bat on the ball,” he said. “A little bit out of sync, but for the most part I was seeing the ball well and put some good swings on it.”
–The Sox were left muttering by Rays shortstop Reid Brignac, who turned in a couple of tremendous defensive plays to rob Mike Cameron of hits. On one, he dove to his left to glove a grounder into the hole and fired to second to force out former teammate and close friend Carl Crawford.
“I hope he wasn’t mad at me,” said Brignac. “I’m sure he’s taken many hits away in his day.”
—Andrew Miller logged another impressive outing, coming in to relieve Matsuzaka in the middle of the fourth inning and tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing one hit and striking out a batter. Though he did not issue a walk, he did fall behind in several counts. Even so, Miller, who had allowed three runs in two innings in his prior appearance on March 6, rebounded impressively. Francona raved about the pitcher’s stuff, with his fastball once again popping in the high-90s.
“I hope he understands how tough he can be to face. At times, he looks like a left-handed [Daniel] Bard,” said Francona. “He’s big and tall. When he leverages the ball downhill, there’s some giddy-up on that fastball. He’s got a nice feel for the breaking ball. He’s real interesting.”
—Alfredo Aceves pitched a pair of solid innings in the seventh and eighth before faltering in the ninth inning, in which he allowed three runs on three hits, including a walkoff, two-run homer by Robinson Chirinos. The Sox were more concerned about getting the right-hander stretched out than about the fact that he left some pitches up in the strike zone in his final inning of work.
|Why Andrew Miller is already one-of-a-kind||02.21.11 at 7:00 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — A strong case can be made that no one has faced the sort of career decisions that left-hander Andrew Miller has faced at such a young age. At just 25 (he turns 26 in May), the southpaw has faced three decisions that few have ever known.
–After the Rays drafted him out of high school in the third round of the 2003 draft, he was offered a major league contract that included a seven-figure bonus. He declined.
–After a singularly dominant college career, the left-hander further advanced his prospects. He was viewed as the top overall pick in the 2006 draft, but dropped for signability reasons. Though he was hoping to drop to the late-first round, where he thought the Yankees or Red Sox might take him, the Tigers took him with the No. 6 overall pick.
That, in turn, led to another major league contract offer straight out of college. Miller signed this one, in a decision that had huge implications for his development. The Tigers (and then the Marlins, who traded for him) had just four minor league options for the left-hander, meaning that he was in many respects rushed.
–In response to that career trajectory, when he became a free agent this offseason (after the Marlins traded him to the Sox, who, in turn, did not tender him a major league contract, thus giving him a chance to talk to all 30 big league clubs), Miller turned down offers of big league deals in order to sign a minor league contract with the Sox.
After having missed development on a rushed path to the majors in the early stages of his career, Miller chose to pursue minor league offers in hopes of avoiding any shortcuts while trying to fulfill his potential. Towards that end, the contract contains carefully crafted provisions meant to ensure he stays with Boston for the entire year, including a club option for 2012 that vests if he’s assigned to another club should he be added to the big league roster and then exposed to waivers in an effort to send him back down.
In signing this deal, Miller’s priority was not to be in the major leagues as soon as possible, but rather to have the sort of player development that will one day keep him there for the long haul.
‘When I was 22 years old, I was like, ‘Forget development, get me out of here. I want to pitch in the big leagues,’’ said Miller. ‘Hey, we all take different paths. This is where I’m at. ‘¦ There’s no what-ifs about me throwing 500 innings in the minor leagues before I got to the big leagues. Shoot, I’ll never trade those experiences for anything.
‘[But] being out of options, at this point in my career, look, I’ve experienced some pretty cool stuff. I’ve been in that situation where you need to make the team where they’re rushing you for different reasons.
‘It just seemed to me like Boston’s the place that wanted me the most. They have the best resources. They were the right fit for me. They’re the right fit for a lot of people. That’s why everyone comes here.’
For more on Miller’s decisions and potential with the Sox, click here.
|Report: Red Sox close to deal with LHP Dennys Reyes||02.04.11 at 10:04 pm ET|
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via twitter), the Red Sox are nearing an agreement with left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes on a minor league deal. Reyes reportedly had agreed to a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Phillies earlier in the offseason, but that deal did not get finalized.
Reyes, who turns 34 in April, has recorded 50 or more appearances in each of the last five years, amassing a 2.63 ERA in stops with the Twins and Cardinals. In 2010, he made 59 appearances for St. Louis with a 3.55 ERA. In his career, Reyes has held lefties to a .238 average and .669 OPS. In 2010, however, he suffered an odd reversal of his splits, holding righties to a .177 mark with a .481 OPS, while lefties hit .307/.862 against him.
Reyes would be one of several left-handers whom the Sox have signed to minor league deals this offseason, including Rich Hill, Andrew Miller, Randy Williams and Lenny DiNardo. Of those four signees, Hill, Miller and Williams all have spring training invites to big league camp with the Sox. The Sox also signed Hideki Okajima to a major league deal, and left-hander Felix Doubront will also be considered for a spot in the bullpen.
|Sifting for relief bargains||12.21.10 at 11:10 am ET|
The acquisitions of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been the headline moves in the reshaping of the Red Sox bullpen. But the Sox have also made a number of less prominent moves that could prove significant in determining how much the team is able to improve a relief corps that ranked among the worst in the American League last year.
A year ago, after all, it was the completely unheralded signing of Scott Atchison that provided the Sox with their most effective bullpen newcomer. Though Atchison spent early stretches of the season in the minors, he eventually emerged as the most trusted relief option behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, as the right-hander appeared in 43 games and, despite a 4.50 ERA at the end of the year, enjoyed stretches of significant success. More notably, the best reliever in the American League last year, Joaquin Benoit, produced a 1.34 ERA for the Rays after signing a minor league deal with Tampa Bay last offseason.
“That’s the way bullpens are built,” said one American League executive. “It might not be with headline guys.”
It is entirely possible that this season, the most significant addition to the Sox bullpen will be neither Jenks (who agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal) nor Wheeler (who has a one-year, $3 million deal with a club/vesting option for 2012) but instead one of the players whom they have brought on board in a minor league deal. Such is the nature of the incredibly unpredictable year-to-year performance of relievers. Whether because of injuries or under-performance by expected staple members of the bullpen, others will have a chance to emerge.
That being the case, it is worth taking stock of what a few relievers who signed minor league deals will make should they contribute in the majors:
—Andrew Miller, $1.3 million
—Jason Bergmann, $700,000
—Rich Hill, $580,000
—Lenny DiNardo, $500,000
In an offseason where the market for middle relievers has exploded — and in which, a couple years from now, plenty of multi-year deals for middle relievers will be viewed through the prism of regret — if any of those pitchers end up contributing meaningfully at the major league level in 2011, those salaries will seem like bargains. And, in a worst-case scenario for the Sox, such deals represent low-risk propositions. Should any of those players either not contribute or struggle, the Sox can part ways with few regrets.
There are few guarantees with signing a host of pitchers to minor league deals. After all, pitchers such as Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse and Alan Embree who competed for Red Sox bullpen roles after signing minor league deals for the 2010 season ended up contributing little.
But given the risks associated with bigger money deals that include big league guarantees, and given the potential upside of such signings, they represent a potentially important component of bullpen construction.
|Six pitchers sign minor league deals with Red Sox||12.16.10 at 7:18 pm ET|
In addition to their decision to re-sign lefty Andrew Miller to a minor league deal, the Red Sox announced the signings Thursday of five other free agents to 2011 minor league contracts, a group that includes former Sox reliever Lenny DiNardo ‘ a deal that was reported by WEEI.com on Wednesday.
In addition to Miller and DiNardo, Boston inked southpaws Rich Hill and Randy Williams, as well as right-handed pitchers Clevelan Santeliz and Ryan Harvey. Hill, Miller, Williams and Santeliz have also been invited to Boston’s major league spring training camp as non-roster players. All of the free agents have been placed on the Triple-A Pawtucket roster.
|Andrew Miller open to deal with Red Sox||12.06.10 at 4:18 pm ET|
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox acquired Andrew Miller from the Marlins in November, viewing the former first-rounder as an interesting buy-low candidate. But after that acquisition, the two sides could not come to terms on a 2011 contract before the deadline to tender contracts on Dec. 3. Had Miller (who had a salary of approximately $1.8 million in 2010) received a contract tender, he likely would have been in line for a deal of approximately $2 million. The Sox were interested in Miller, but at a lower figure, and so the team decided to non-tender him, with the idea that it could negotiate with the pitcher while he examined the market for his services as a free agent.
“We all kind of decided that we’d let this process run its course,” said Darek Braunecker, one of the pitcher’s representatives. “There’s a lot of teams interested: 6-foot-6 left-hander, still can throw up to 97. There’s a ton of upside.”
But at this point, Miller’s marketability is based on his potential rather than his performance. He was rushed to the big leagues in 2006, the same year he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina, and he has struggled badly with his command and mechanics. He has a career 15-26 record and 5.84 ERA, and while he has struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings, he has walked 5.3 per nine innings. Last year, in nine appearances for the Marlins, he went 1-5 with an 8.54 ERA.
The struggles were significant enough that money will not be the sole consideration for Miller’s next contract. He will also be looking for the right place to work on establishing himself as a pitcher. While Braunecker would not say if Miller — who will be dropping by the Winter Meetings to meet with officials and pitching coaches of interested clubs — would consider a minor league deal, he did not dismiss the possibility.
“We’ve got to find the right developmental situation for him, whether settling in at the big leagues or back in the minor leagues. … It’s going to be a really methodical and diligent process,” said Braunecker. “This guy still has a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.
“I think it’s fair to say we will give consideration to everything that we deem to be in Andrew Miller’s best interests to ensure that he becomes the major league player we all think he can be.”
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