Red Sox

Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

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Miller: A tall pitcher with high hopes

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Left-hander Andrew Miller is scheduled to make his first start for the Red Sox Monday night against the Padres.

It will be the 80th big-league appearance for Miller, a first-round draft pick (sixth overall) by the Tigers in 2006, who made his debut less than three weeks after signing.

While Miller has pitched in the big leagues in each of the last five seasons, compiling a record of 15-26 with a 5.84 ERA, he has made nearly as many minor-league appearances (63) in that time, posting a record of 10-19 with a 3.66.

He's hoping the Red Sox, his third organization, offer him something the others havent: A chance to settle in, free of the mechanics tinkering hes been subjected to in the past, and a chance to bring to fruition the potential he has always had.

Miller was originally acquired by the Sox in a November trade with the Marlins for lefty Dustin Richardson (who was recently designated for assignment by Florida). Shortly after that, though, the Sox non-tendered Miller in the hopes of signing him to a less-expensive contract. They did just that in December, but the new deal, according to a source, gave Miller two opt-out clauses, allowing him to walk away if the Sox did not put him on the big league roster by specified dates. One of those dates was June 15 (the other was in August).

Miller, his agent, and Sox general manager Theo Epstein met on June 15 and reached an agreement that Miller would be promoted to Boston and make his Sox debut Monday against the Padres. When right-hander Clay Buchholz was placed on the disabled list Sunday, Miller was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and activated. He arrived at Fenway Park shortly before the start of the teams series finale against the Brewers.

There really wasnt much of a decision process, Miller said. I knew there was a date coming up but that was handled. I was basically reassured by the Red Sox that good things were going to happen. They have, and just happy to still be here.

Obviously looking forward to being promoted a lot. I think Ive been pitching well lately and just looking to carry it over and do the same thing here.

Miller has been pitching well. After a tweak to his pregame warm-up routine, initiated by Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur and minor-league pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel, Miller has put up impressive numbers. Sauveur suggested changing Millers pregame routine to one similar to that of Buchholz warm up early, sit down, and warm up again just before game time.

Overall, Miller has a record of 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) this season, with 61 strikeouts and 35 walks in 65 23 innings. He held batters to an International League-best .181 average.

It took him until his fourth start before he could record his first win this season. It took him until his 10th start until he earned his second 'W.' But in four starts since adjusting his pregame routine, Miller is 2-1, allowing a combined five earned runs over 25 13 innings, for a 1.78 ERA, with 26 strikeouts and just 3 walks. The only loss in that span came in his June 8 outing in Norfolk, when he allowed one earned run on five hits with no walks and three strikeouts over seven innings.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Miller, who has been plagued by control issues during his career, has allowed just one walk in his last three outings, spanning 18 13 innings. He struck out a season-high 10 batters in his last start, a no-decision June 14 against Charlotte, with one walk.

I think you certainly want to get called up when youre throwing the ball well and I think thats been the case lately, he said. So what better time? I think weve got a good program in place and just stick to it and well do the same thing here that Ive been doing down there, and go out there and pitch well.

I think its just been a combination of everything. Getting settled in, getting comfortable. I think its just a combination really of finding a place and I had a good program put in place down there and good routine. Its just carried over the success lately.

Millers fastball sits in the mid 90s and can touch the high 90s. His mechanics, he believes, are better than they have been in recent seasons.

Id like to think so, he said. I think right now Im confident the way Im throwing the ball and just looking to keep it going.

Theres a lot to like about Miller, manager Terry Francona said.

"We're hoping to see exactly what he's been doing his last four starts at Triple-A," Francona said. "One start doesn't make or break your career. But we just want to see him pound the strike zone with his good stuff. He's really done a terrific job.

Daniel Bard, Miller's teammate while both pitchers were at the University of North Carolina, is looking forward to seeing what the left-hander can do for the Sox.

I know hes been throwing the ball really well these four or five starts in Triple-A, Bard said. But Im just excited for him. Its kind of been a long road back to the big leagues for him and I know hes worked extremely hard to get back. As a friend of mine, just glad to see him personally get back, but also I think he can really help this team. Im not sure what role itll be in the long term. But hes too good to let go.

Bard is hoping the Sox can get from Miller what other teams were unable to.

Obviously the Marlins, for whatever reason, didnt want him anymore and the Red Sox saw it as a great opportunity and jumped on it, Bard said. At this point, I think its worked out really well for both sides, for Andrew and for the Red Sox. But I think the biggest thing, when they did agree to that deal in the offseason, both sides want it to be a long-term partnership. Andrew, just to be with the same organization, the Red Sox because they saw him as a big piece of their future. So, I think thats beginning of what we see this week.

Outfielder Josh Reddick played most of the season with Miller in Pawtucket and knows what the tall lefty can do.

Even when hes not on, hes a little bit wildly effective, as they call it, Reddick said. But definitely when hes on, hes going to be tough because hes got a good slider and his fastball runs up there to the mid to upper 90s. He hides his ball so well. Luckily Ive never faced him before and hopefully I wont have to do that in the near future.

Miller, though, isnt taking the future as a given, just as he never took it for granted that he would be standing on a big league mound wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Nothings guaranteed, he said. Certainly coming into the situation, not on the roster, you never know whats going to happen. You look at the rotation and the staff, everybody on the roster here, its an unbelievable team. Im just glad an opportunity has arisen but certainly nothings guaranteed.

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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