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Friday, March 16, 2012
Fort Takeaways: Miller destined for relief?

By Rick Weber





FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A few takeaways from the Fort, where the Boston Red Sox may or may not have damaged their chances to win the Mayor’s Cup with a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday night:

Making a case: Andrew Miller just wants to make the team at this point. Sure, it’d be nice to be the fifth starter. But after missing 10 days with elbow stiffness, he might be running out of time.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller doesn't look comfortable pitching out of the windup, according to Sox manager Bobby Valentine.
Miller pitched a solid inning -- no hits, two strikeouts and one walk on 14 pitches, nine strikes -- but he has managed just three innings all spring.

“The goal for me is more to be with the club than anything,” he said, “but if starting is going to be in the equation, it’s going to have to happen pretty fast. I think I threw 26 pitches the first time out and today around 15, so I’ve got a ways to go if I’m expected to throw seven innings.”

He said he’d cherish a regular starting role, feeling his varying roles have not been the best recipe for success.

“My ultimate goal is consistency, and that’s been my downfall historically,” he said. “Even if I have one start, two starts in a month, that’s good. The goal for a starter is someone who consistently gives you a chance every time, not five out of six or four out of five.”

Manager Bobby Valentine said that whether he’s a starter or reliever, he should eliminate pitching out of a windup.

“It seemed like there were two different guys out there -- one guy I didn’t want to look at out of the windup and one I’d look at all night long out of the stretch,” Valentine said. “He was terrific out of the stretch. I thought every pitch was quality, crisp, to the target and damn near unhittable.

“If he comes in with no one on base, that doesn’t mean he has to pitch out of a windup, or if he starts a game, that doesn’t mean he has to pitch out of a windup.”

Miller’s verdict on the elbow?

“The real test will be tomorrow morning,” he said.

Jamming: It wasn’t vintage Jon Lester. But he wasn’t sweating it. Just move on.

“Physically I felt fine -- just a little out of whack, out of rhythm,” said Lester, who hit two batters, walked one and gave up five hits and two runs in four innings. “I really couldn’t make the adjustment and be consistent, repeat. That was the big thing: I couldn’t repeat. I went through a lot of pitches.

“Stuff like this happens during the season. There’s games where you’ve got to grind it out and you’re not feeling that great, whether it’s physical or mechanical, like I was tonight. Minimize damage. It was spring training, but I was pretty able to do that. Obviously, it’s a good thing to work on—pitching out of jams. You’ve got to do it during season. You might as well practice it here. Obviously, it’s not ideal. I don’t want all those base runners. Just one of those nights. Got to grind through it."

Said Valentine, “It looked like everything was a little bit more of an effort than it will be soon, I hope. But all in all, he was all right.”

Papi’s promise: David Ortiz said that when he retires, we won’t see him again in uniform -- unlike Andy Pettitte, who signed with the Yankees on Friday after retiring in 2010, or Roger Clemens, who was a serial comebacker and as recently as November reportedly wanted to play winter ball in Puerto Rico.

“I’m going to play, and when I stop, I stop,” he said. “It don’t make no sense (to) stop and then come back. You’re going to be behind. I don’t know. Everybody’s got their reasons.”

Papi’s Tribute: After Ortiz was robbed of an extra-base hit in the fourth inning when center fielder Joe Benson snagged his laser shot in front of the 420-foot sign, Ortiz approached the Sox dugout, clapped, then turned around and tipped his helmet toward Benson.

“David killed that ball,” Valentine said.

Valentine on Benson: “The kid looks like a player. I like that kid. He’ll have a lower number soon.”

Pedro Ciriaco
Pedro Ciriaco has been hot at the plate, but will almost certainly begin the season in Triple-A.
Pedro for President: Earlier in the week, Valentine said infielder Pedro Ciriaco couldn’t impress anyone more than he already had. But just for kicks, he keeps trying to do it.

After going 1-for-3 with a double and run scored on Friday, he’s hitting .588. He went into the game tied for the team lead with Lars Anderson in RBIs (5) and second on the team behind Darnell McDonald in total bases (14).

“It’s pretty good to hear that,” Ciriaco said of Valentine’s praise. “I’m just trying to keep working to do whatever I can to be a better player.”

Nothing Ciriaco does will really change the facts: There isn’t a spot in Boston for him to start the season. After hitting .303 for the Pirates in six different stints covering 23 games last year, he’s projected to start at second base at Triple-A Pawtucket.

“I don’t really think about it,” he said. “Just go day to day. I don’t put too much pressure on myself. I play the game to have fun.”

He said his walk-off homer in Monday’s 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins was the first of his baseball career at any level, and his first game-winning hit since 2008 in Class A Visalia.

Theo deal (almost) complete:
RHP Aaron Kurcz, an 11th-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in the 2010 first-year player draft, was acquired Thursday as the player to be named in the compensation deal for former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Kurcz pitched for high Class A Daytona last season and is 7-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 109 2/3 innings over two seasons. Boston must still send a player to the Cubs to finally bring this drawn-out affair to an end.

Getting it in: Earlier Friday, pitchers Chris Carpenter and Justin Germano faced Orioles farmhands at JetBlue Park. Carpenter (Double-A Portland) gave up an unearned run on three hits over three innings, throwing 29 strikes and 15 balls. Germano (Triple-A Pawtucket) allowed three hits over three scoreless innings, throwing 31 strikes and 13 balls.

Mayor’s Cup no more? The Red Sox now have a 2-1 lead in what will be a six-game series with the Twins. The Red Sox and Twins used to compete for the Mayor’s Cup, with the Red Sox representing Fort Myers and the Twins representing Lee County. But that ended when the Red Sox moved out of City of Palms Park in the city limits of Fort Myers and into JetBlue Park, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
The Red Sox apparently are under the belief that they are still playing for it, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said earlier this spring that the Cup is “in somebody’s cabin now, in Minnesota.” Gardenhire couldn’t clarify Friday night: He missed the game to attend his father-in-law’s funeral.