Red Sox

Miller’s lock-down appearance reminiscent of 2013 Koji

Miller’s lock-down appearance reminiscent of 2013 Koji

Terry Francona deserves some credit for going to his lone lefty so early, but in the end, Andrew Miller was the one who got the job done.

Most remember Miller was traded from Boston to Baltimore for Eduardo Rodriguez then was part of strong Yankees' bullpen before being dealt to Cleveland.

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Still, what most forget is Miller was on his last legs when he arrived in Boston, looking like a first-round bust after failing as a starter in Detroit and Florida from 2006-2010.

He wasn’t good in his first year in Boston, starting 12 games with a 5.54 ERA. But then in 2011 -- Francona’s last year in Boston, in case you haven’t been reminded in the last 90 seconds -- he became a reliever.

Five seasons later, he has the same role for the Indians as Koji Uehara had for the Red Sox in 2013 and is recognized as one of the best relievers in baseball.

“It’s miserable, especially as a lefty hitter,” Miller’s teammate, Jason Kipnis, said of what it’s like facing the lefty. “I know what those pitches look like, I’ve faced them and I’ve walked back to the dugout with my head down after every time seeing him. “You really kind of have to pick your spots against him and kind of get lucky. You have to guess right and after guessing right you have to execute. It’s not a fun at bat for lefties -- or anybody.”

Miller’s worked primarily as a setup man in either the eighth or seventh, while having spots as a closer, too, but Thursday night was a totally different animal. In fact, it was the first time Miller had appeared in a game before the seventh inning since April 18, 2014 -- when he pitched for the Red Sox.

You never would’ve guessed it was unfamiliar territory by his two-inning, four-strikeout performance.

“I think every reliever outside of...there’s 30 closers and most teams have a setup man, but there’s seven guys [in the bullpen] for most teams," Miller said. "The other five guys have to pitch anywhere from the first inning to the ninth inning every day. That’s the role I’ve been in the majority of my career, I have one year where I was closing and had that kind of set, nice role. It’s nice to have that luxury of preparing a certain way, but ultimately I think most of us just find a way to go out there and pitch when called upon and do the best we can.”

To which Kipnis joked, “One day you’ll be a closer, or a setup guy.”

What Miller did Thursday night is much more difficult and valuable than what any closer does.

Like Miller said, there are 30 closers in the league, but if you look around, there’s only one Andrew Miller.

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."