Red Sox

Miller looking to improve in bullpen role

755880.jpg

Miller looking to improve in bullpen role

Since he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina by the Tigers with the sixth overall pick in 2006, Andrew Millers potential has tantalized many observers, evaluators, and pitching coaches. But the results seemed to stay just out of the reach of delivering on that potential.

Prior to 2012, Miller had appeared in 96 major league games, making 66 starts, for the Tigers, Marlins, and Red Sox, posting a record of 21-29 with a 5.79 ERA. In 2011, his first season with the Sox after being acquired in an offseason trade with the Marlins, he made 17 appearances, with 12 starts, posting a record of 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA.

But Miller, who turns 28 in May, started the 2012 season on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring that allowed him to make just three appearances in spring training. He appeared in 12 games, making one start, for Single-A Greenville and Triple-A Pawtucket before being activated on May 6. But what the Sox could expect from the 6-foot-7 left-hander was unknown.

Except for his debut season of 2006, when he made eight relief appearances for Detroit, 2012 was the only one of his seven major league seasons in which he worked strictly out of the bullpen. The results? A record of 3-2 with a career-best 3.35 ERA in a career-high 53 games. His 1.190 WHIP, 6.2 hits-per-nine innings ratio, 4.5 walks-per-nine, 11.4 strikeouts-per-nine, 2.55 strikeouts-to-walks, and opponents average of .194 were all also the best of his career.

Miller held opponents hitless in 31 outings, scoreless in 43, and had 22 perfect outings. Lefties hit just .149 (13-for-87) against him, with a .245 on-base percentage, and .184 slugging percentage, while righties hit .263 (15-for-57) with a .373 OBP and .456 SLG.

He stranded 39 of 46 inherited runners, a success rate of 84.8 percent, fifth-best in the American League, and retired the first batter he faced in 45 of his 53 appearances, giving up four hits and four walks with 16 strikeouts.

Perhaps, in his seventh big league season, Miller had found his role.

I think for me last year was a learning experience and I enjoyed it, Miller said. It wasnt the season we envisioned, but for me it was a step forward, I think. Whatever they ask me to do, Ill be ready, and I think theres certainly things I can improve upon. Thats that Im going to show and prove that I have, that Im ready to do that. Whatever role they put me in, I want to show that Im ready to go.

For some pitchers, giving up on the idea of being a starting pitcher can be difficult. But, while Miller believes he is still capable of starting, for now thats not the issue.

I dont know if Id say starting is my preference, Miller said. My preference is to be good at this level. I think that's kind of overlooked a lot of times. Im not in the position to demand or ask for anything. I just want to be part of the team and help us win a lot of games. Whatever role they ask me to do is fine. I think clearly its to be in the bullpen again this year.

If at some point down the road that starting opportunity comes up again, Ill have to evaluate it and see whats best for me or the team, or whatever. Whatever side of the court the balls in, I dont know. But in reality its something that Im still capable of doing. I enjoy doing it. I think that, you know, I certainly struggled there for a couple of years but I think Im going in the right direction. Its something I could get back to.

Miller, who began throwing a few weeks ago and said he is on schedule for reporting to Fort Myers, is not quite a lefty specialist despite his numbers against left-handers last season. But, of his 53 appearances, he entered to face one batter in 13. Of those 13 appearances, 12 were against left-handed hitters. Miller recorded outs in 12 of those 13 instances, including four strikeouts and a double play. The only non-lefty he faced in those instances was the Rays switch-hitting pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad, who singled off Miller on July 13.

With fellow lefties Craig Breslow and Franklin Mortensen also expected to be in the Sox bullpen in 2013 Miller is not sure what his exact role will be this year. The Sox have added relievers closer Joel Hanrahan and right-hander Koji Uehara to the bullpen mix this offseason.

We certainly at times showed that we got some pretty arms down there last year, Miller said. I think if were healthy, hopefully Andrew Baileys back and ready to go. We know he can do it. I think weve got the pieces down there, now its a matter of us doing our job and I think were capable of it. Im excited to meet the new guys and work in with them. Hopefully everybody shows up ready to go because I think we can be really good.

And, continuing his progression last season, there are things he still wants to work on.

I think last year was the first time Ive really had a role in the bullpen, he said. So some things I did a good job of, coming in and getting the first guy out or dealing with inherited runners. But I think Id like to get righties out at a better clip and obviously I can still cut down on some walks. I had some walks at the end of the year that kind of hurt me. I think you can always improve in those departments. But those really stood out to me last year and I think I know how to fix them and thats my goal, to fix them.

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

Red Sox reportedly make offer to Cora

UPDATE: The deal is for three years, per Ken Rosenthal.

BOSTON — We’re just waiting on an announcement now.

A pair of national reports on Saturday afternoon, one from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal... 

...And another from MLB Network and FanRagSports.com's Jon Heyman...

have firmed up Alex Cora’s expected hiring as Red Sox manager. Both reported that Cora, the Astros bench coach, is expected to take the job once Houston's season ends, which could come as soon as Saturday night after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. 

Heyman reported a contract offer has already been made to Cora. 

A baseball source said this week that there was “not a doubt” Cora, the Astros bench coach, would wind up with the Red Sox gig. It’s unclear when exactly the offer was made to him, but one had not been made as of midday Wednesday, the source said. 

Cora, 41, a former Red Sox infielder (2005-08) who's also worked in the media and is the most sought-after managerial candidate at the moment, appeared the front-runner since the outset of what proved a small search for the Red Sox.

Earlier, Boston Globe reported that the Washington Nationals were interested in Cora after they fired Dusty Baker on Friday. 

 

Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

Could Nationals' interest in Cora mess with Red Sox' plans?

The Washington Nationals will ask to speak to Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora after the ALCS, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported, which could throw a wrench into the Red Sox' plans to name Cora their manager.

The Sox appeared close to naming Cora to replace John Farrell after the Astros season is finished, NBC Sports Boston Red Sox Insider Evan Drellich reported earlier this week. Then the Nats decided to part ways with manager Dusty Baker after consecutive N.L. East titles but Division Series flameouts.

Cora, 41, as Cafardo points out, was once offered a player development job with the Nats, who were the last team he played for (2011) in his 14-plus years as a major league infielder, including 2005-08 with the Red Sox. 

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo obviously has a fondness for Cora, telling MLB.com in 2011:

"I think it comes natural to him to be a teacher. Alex still has a lot left in his tank as a player. But he has my number, and when he’s done playing, he can make a call. It will be well-received."

After interviewing Cora, ex-Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire, who took the Tigers job this week, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told WEEI.com that he was still "undecided" if he'll interview anyone else.