Red Sox

Andrew Miller may soon join Red Sox' rotation

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Andrew Miller may soon join Red Sox' rotation

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Only recently, the Red Sox' starting rotation seemed to be stabilizing.

Daisuke Matsuzaka may have been lost for the remainder of the season thanks to Tommy John surgery, but John Lackey has returned from a DL stint to win his last two starts and the venerable Tim Wakefield, essentially taking Matsuzaka's spot, has pitched well enough that the team is 4-2 in his outings.

By Wednesday, however, things could change again.

Left-hander Andrew Miller has a June 15 opt-out in his deal, meaning he can become a free agent if the team doesn't add him to the major league roster.

It's possible that Miller, who is scheduled to start Tuesday for Pawtucket, could force the Red Sox' hand and be added to the rotation, sending Wakefield back to the bullpen.

A former first-round pick in 2006, Miller has always had terrific stuff, but his control since first getting to the big leagues months after being drafted has been, to be kind, inconsistent.

Lately, however, Miller has been far more around the strike zone. Over his last two starts for Pawtucket, Miller has thrown 13 innings, striking out 12 and walking none. Dating back to his last three starts, Miller has walked just two in his last 20 innings.

In 12 games, Miller is 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA. In 60 13 innings, he's struck out 51 and walked 34. Opponents are hitting just .175 against him.

"Even earlier in the season,'' noted Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen, "it was command (within the zone) rather than control. He got in a lot of deep counts and he wasn't winning those. Now, he's putting the ball right where he wants. The continued development of his delivery is allowing him to be more consistent within the strike zone.''

Miller is tall (6-foot-7) and lanky, and like Randy Johnson and other tall, gangly pitchers, there are, at times, too many moving parts to Miller's delivery. But he's been using his athleticism to repeat his delivery more consistently.

The stuff -- a fastball that is regularly 95-96 mph, and a sharp slider -- has never been in question. In his last start, last Wednesday against Norfolk, Miller recorded double-digit groundouts, evidence that he his two-seam fastball is helping him be more efficient and economical.

"There's been steady improvement over the last three or four starts,'' said Hazen. "What he's shown us in that span is very impressive.''

Credit for Miller's improvement is shared by major league pitching coach Curt Young -- who worked with Miller during spring training -- Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur and roving pitching instructor Ralph Treuel.

Officially, the Red Sox haven't heard anything further from Miller or his agent regarding Wednesday's deadline. Privately, they're braced for Miller to force their hand.

Said one personnel evaluator who has seen Miller pitch more than once this season: "He's a left-hander who's throwing 96. I've got to believe that there's got to be one team out there willing to offer him a spot in their rotation.''

That's all Miller needs to prompt the Red Sox to add him to their 40-man roster and promote him to Boston. Coincidentally or not, Miller is now lined up perfectly with Wakefield, meaning that, if the Sox promote him Wednesday, Miller would be lined up to pitch when Wakefield's turn next comes around: Sunday at home vs. Milwaukee.

Things could get complicated if Miller joins the Red Sox, then, for whatever reason, has to be sent back to Pawtucket. The 26-year-old is out of options, meaning he would have to be exposed to waivers before the Red Sox could outright him back to Triple A.

(During the off-season, the Red Sox attempted to structure a unique contract, whereby any team claiming Miller would be forced to pick up a 3 million option for 2012 -- his major salary for 2011 would be a more modest 1.3 million -- but there were objections from the commissioner's office and the Players Association and the language had to be re-written to fall in line with proper contractual guidelines.)

In a perfect world, the Red Sox would keep Miller at Triple A and allow him to pitch more innings in a controlled environment.

But the fact that Miller is forcing their hand can be viewed positively, too, since it's an indication of how well he's been throwing, and by extension, the interest other teams likely have in him.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

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NLCS: Dodgers win first pennant since 1988 with 11-1 Game 5 rout of Cubs

CHICAGO -- Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

"It feels good to hear World Series," Kershaw said. "It's been a long time coming for this team."

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles' last championship in 1988.

"Every night it is a different guy," Turner said, "and this is one of the most unbelievable teams I've ever been a part of."

Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short of its 22nd pennant each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs - matching Burt Hooton's club record for postseason wins.

"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series? I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on . The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors' dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"

On the field, manager Dave Roberts hugged Lasorda and told the iconic skipper the win was for him.

"I bleed Dodger blue just like you," Roberts said. "Thank you, Tommy."

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. Hernandez added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

The 26-year-old Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in a league championship series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez's seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players who all did it in a Division Series.

Troy O'Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.

It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.

"For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special," said Hernandez, who also goes by Kik�. "My body's here, but my mind's kind of back home. It's hard being away from home with what's going on.

"All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug."

Kris Bryant homered for Chicago, but the NL Central champions finished with just four hits in another tough night at the plate. Each of their eight runs in the NLCS came via the long ball, and they batted just .156 for the series with 53 strikeouts.

Long playoff runs in each of the last two years and a grueling five-game Division Series against Washington seemed to sap Chicago of some energy, and its pitching faltered against sweet-swinging Los Angeles. Jose Quintana was pulled in the third inning of the final game, and the Cubs never recovered.

"They executed their plan," Bryant said. "They pitched great and the bullpen was lights out. That makes for a tough time scoring runs."

Turner and Taylor helped put it away for Los Angeles, contributing to a 16-hit outburst while closing out a pair of impressive performances.

Turner singled home Taylor in the Dodgers' five-run third, giving him seven RBIs in the series and 24 throughout his postseason career. Taylor finished with two hits and scored two runs as the Dodgers, who have won five straight NL West titles, improved to 7-1 in this postseason.

Taylor's versatility helped Los Angeles cover for the loss of All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the series with a back injury, but is expected to return in the next round. Coming off a breakout season, the 27-year-old Taylor hit .316 with two homers and scored five times against the Cubs.

"I couldn't be happier to be a part of this and be with these guys," Taylor said. "It's been an unbelievable year, and I'm just super excited."

OUT WITH A BANG

Hernandez joined Kennedy (2002), Adrian Beltre (2011), Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers) and Babe Ruth (1928) as players to hit three home runs in a postseason series clincher.

LIGHTS OUT

Dodgers relievers have thrown 23 consecutive scoreless innings, a postseason record.

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

Are Red Sox playing a waiting game before naming their new manager?

BOSTON — As soon as the American League Championship Series ends, the Red Sox could make a move for their manager.

Industry sources continue to expect Astros bench coach Alex Cora will be the Sox’ pick. No offer had been officially made as of midday Wednesday, one source close to the situation said. But the belief is such an offer waits out of respect to the Astros-Yankees ALCS that can end no later than Saturday if the series goes a full seven games. 

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“Not a doubt it is him,” the source said.

Sunday and Monday would both be off days ahead of the Tuesday night start of the World Series. That leads to the potential for at least a Red Sox announcement of Cora, if not a press conference, before the Fall Classic begins. (If the Astros advance to the World Series, it may be harder to have Cora in Boston for any length of time.)

All those who know Cora praise his ability to connect with players. The former Red Sox infielder is good friends with Dustin Pedroia. Cora’s previous knowledge of the Boston market works in his favor, as well, as does his mettle handling the media. Some question his readiness as a first-time manager, considering he would be taking over a team with great win-now expectations and complicated clubhouse dynamics.

Nothing takes the place of experience and there is such a thing as being too close to players. Ultimately, if the Sox do land Cora, 41, they would be adding the hottest up-and-coming managerial prospect who’s available on the market. The everybody-wants-him reputation could give Cora added cachet with players and certainly becomes a public-relations win for those fans following the search.

The Sox interviewed Ron Gardenhire on Wednesday. Gardenhire was the third candidate the Sox talked to and could well be the last. Cora met with the Sox on Sunday, followed by Brad Ausmus on Monday.