Red Sox

Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

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Miller taking well to his role in the bullpen

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced over the weekend his rotation for the three-game set with the Yankees that begins Tuesday night at Fenway Park. Right-hander John Lackey will take the mound in the first game, followed by Josh Beckett, and Jon Lester. Beyond that, the manager has not indicated who will pitch when.

But, with two days off, his staff should be well rested. Left-hander Eric Bedard is expected to stay in the rotation, leaving starts uncertain for Tim Wakefield, still in search of his 200th career win, and lefty Andrew Miller.

Whatever opportunity I get, Im just going to try and make the most out of it, Miller said. I dont know what those opportunities will be. Weve got five pretty good starters that are healthy right now. So, not really my concern. If they give me the ball, Ill take it. Obviously, Id like to pitch well and good things will happen.

Miller has had strong outings in his last two starts. Going a combined 11 23 innings in Kansas City on Aug. 19 and in Texas on Thursday, he gave up just one run on six hits and four walks with nine strikeouts. Earning wins in both outings, he improved to 6-1, with a 4.42 ERA.

Thursday he repeated his delivery consistently. Thats a really good thing, Francona said. When you're that tall (6-foot-7) -- and with all pitchers you have moving parts -- but when you're that tall and lanky theres going to be more. But his release point was the same. It was consistent. He threw all his pitches for strikes, took the sting out of the bats. He pitched. It was fun to watch.

Still, Miller could find himself in the bullpen for the stretch and the postseason. Its a situation hes familiar with. And one he is not averse to. He has made two relief appearances for the Sox this season, and 27 of his 91 major league appearances have been out of the bullpen.

Im fine with that, he said. I was out there for a while, didnt really pitch much, fortunately. That was a good thing. It meant we were winning games. So, however I can help the team. Im under contract here. So, thats my job, whatever they ask me to do.

While it is an adjustment, it is one he is open to.

To be honest with you, its gone pretty well, he said. So, I think, fortunately, Ive had to go through it a few times in the past. Its definitely something you learn the more you get used to it, and Im more comfortable each time I go out there.

The biggest adjustment?

Its such a different mentality coming into a game, he said. You have to be kind of locked in from the get-go. Whereas, as a starter you have to be prepared to be out there for a long time. You cant put too much into one hitter or one at-bat or something like that. Whereas, in the bullpen everything goes into one or two hitters for the most part. A little bit different approach but you learn and go out there, and essentially its the same game.

Prior to his two most recent starts, Miller had pitched just three total innings in August, 2 23 on Aug. 4 and 13 on Aug. 10, working out of the bullpen. In those relief appearances, he gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

I thought he handled the layoff really well, Francona said. Some of when he starts is determined by we have days off and other guys have pitched pretty well. Well figure those things out but we were thrilled with the way he pitched Thursday.

The lefty specialist role is one Miller could fill for the Sox. Although left-handers are batting .291 (16-for-55) with a home run against him this season, he also has 17 strikeouts and a 2.83 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Three of his six strikeouts Thursday came against Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton, once looking and twice swinging, the final time to include a double play when Elvis Andrus was caught attempting to steal second base.

Yeah, I think I can fill that role, Miller said. I like to think I can get my fair share of lefties out. But whatever they ask of me.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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