Red Sox

Notes: Miller just good enough versus Orioles

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Notes: Miller just good enough versus Orioles

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Left-hander Andrew Miller wasn't dominant Thursday night, but still managed to record his third win in four starts as a member of the Red Sox.

The left-hander went five innings and threw 97 pitches, giving up three runs on six hits, with four walks and no strikeouts and left the game with a 5-3 lead. He ended up getting the win as the Sox pulled away for a 10-4 victory over the Orioles.

High pitch count, no strikeouts, some walks, manager Terry Francona said of Millers outing. Sometimes theres some moving parts that hes still working on. Saying that, he limited the damage, controlled the game, which is good.

I think theres more in there. I think he thinks so, too.

Miller, now 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA, knows he still has work to do. His percentage of strikes Thursday night was only 58 percent, compared to a percentage of 63 in his four starts overall.

"We've won the games I've pitched. I'm certainly satisfied with that," Miller said. "Ultimately, efficiency and throwing strikes, I certainly have work to do and we'll put that work in."

Franconas first big-league manager was Dick Williams, who led the Sox in their 1967 Impossible Dream season. Francona was a rookie for the Expos when Williams was their manager in 1981.

Williams, well-known for his tough, no-nonsense approach, died Thursday at the age of 82 at a hospital near his home in Henderson, NV.

He was a brilliant manager. Everybody knew it, Francona said. I actually spent more time talking to him when he became a special assistant with the Yankees. I went to watch a B game once over in Tampa and he was talking to me, and I was like, Damn, Dick, I played for you and you wouldnt talk to me. And we laughed like crazy.

"He was a really good baseball man.

Francona made his big league debut under Williams in Houston on Aug. 19, 1981.

I was supposed to start, Francona said. Nolan Ryan was pitching. That was when they had the air traffic controllers strike and I got to the Astrodome late. So I got to the game in the fifth inning. Found my way into the dugout. He said, Kid, youre leading off next inning. No hello, no nothing, that was it."

There was one good thing about his late arrival: He didn't have to face Ryan.

"They took Nolan out," Francona said. "We had just come back from the players' strike" and Ryan was lifted because he was still working his way back into shaoe.

"Then I remember my third game," Francona said. "I didn't get a bunt down. He met me at the dugout and reminded me I better get the bunt down or Id be doing it in Triple-A Denver.

"I also remember making a baserunning play where I took an extra base. And I just happened to look up when I got to second. He was standing up like he reacted positively. I remember thinking this guy cares. He probably didnt want you to know that. But I remember thinking, 'All right.'

Dustin Pedroia's three-run homer was his third home run in his last eight games. He went 2-for-5 and extended his on-base streak to 21 games, going back to June 15. It is the longest active streak in the A.L., and the third of his career of at least 20 games.

Kevin Youkilis went 1-for-5, extending his on-base streak to 19 games.

With Jacoby Ellsbury, Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez each homering, it is the first time the top three batters in the Sox lineup have homered since June 15, 2008, when Ellsbury, Pedroia, and J.D. Drew did so.

Jed Lowrie remains on the DL, since June 17, with a left shoulder strain.

Got to get that strength a little more equal on both sides, Francona said. Hes not there yet. Hes improving, but hes not there yet.

Francona is pleased with the work hes been getting from the catching tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek.

Saltalamacchia kind of corralled it there, Francona said. We were out in Anaheim and Saltalamacchia had kind of a rough day and things kind of snowballed and I think 'Tek helped a little bit taking some of the load off.

"Now hes going out there playing. When hes in the lineup, hes running the game, hes seeing pitches. Hell drive the ball. Between he and 'Tek, were getting some production . . . Hes throwing the ball better. Its been fun to watch . . .

"I think 'Teks helped him a lot. Thats not always the case where the backup player helps the starter. I think hes lucky to have 'Tek."

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press