PAWTUCKET â€” Andrew Miller looked very much like a pitcher who doesnâ€™t belong pitching every fifth day in Triple-A Tuesday night.
With Wednesday signifying the first of two reported opt-out dates â€” the second occurring Aug. 5 â€” Millerâ€™s timing couldnâ€™t have worked out any better. The lanky lefthander delivered his finest outing in a PawSox uniform, allowing one run while striking out 10 Charlotte Knights in 5 1/3 innings. He received a no decision as Pawtucket fell in 11 innings, 4-2.
If the reports floating about have some serious merit to them, then Miller is ticketed to join Bostonâ€™s rotation in the not-so-distant future â€” a move that could become official as soon as today.
Miller would not tip his hand regarding his future with Boston.
â€śMy agent (Mark Rodgers) is in town and weâ€™ll talk about it (last night). Itâ€™s a tough decision, but weâ€™ll see,â€ť said Miller. â€śI certainly think things are going in the right direction and it would be a shame not to keep it going.
â€śThis the first time Iâ€™ve ever had (an opt out date),â€ť Miller continued. â€śIt is what it is. You like to have fun playing baseball, but eventually everything boils down to money and what not. Weâ€™ll discuss the situation and figure out whatâ€™s best for myself.â€ť
Miller has no problem pitching out of the bullpen if thatâ€™s where the Red Sox place him. â€śIf they call me up, they can do whatever they want with me and Iâ€™ll happily do it. If thereâ€™s a spot in the big leagues, I want it.â€ť
Millerâ€™s apparent swan song with Pawtucket couldnâ€™t have fared any better. Blending pinpoint control with a virtually unhittable array of pitches, the University of North Carolina product issued just one walk while allowing five hits. That free pass, which Miller surrendered leading off the sixth inning, snapped a 21-inning walk-free streak. Such a lengthy stretch demonstrates just how far Miller has come since the start of the season, where short outings due to high walk totals were the norm.
â€śIf youâ€™re crunching the numbers, itâ€™s probably as good as it's been,â€ť said Miller when asked if heâ€™s ever enjoyed such a stretch in which walks were not part of the discussion.
The only mistake Miller made came in the second inning against Dallas McPherson, who drilled a 93-mph offering into the right-center bleachers for a solo home run.
Lately heâ€™s been pitching like the sixth overall selection he was in 2006. An alteration to his pregame routine late last month â€“ Miller would simulate an inning the bullpen before throwing his warmup tosses â€“ has resulted in him reaching the long-awaited day in which everything clicks.
The proof can be found in the stats he carried into his outing Tuesday. International League hitters were batting a league-low .175 against the southpaw. Perhaps equally impressive heâ€™s issued just two free passes in his three previous outings.
â€śOut of the gates I feel like I have better command. Thatâ€™s the goal and thatâ€™s what Iâ€™ve been looking for all along,â€ť said Miller. â€śI think Iâ€™ve shown (in Pawtucket) that I can be a good major-league pitcher.â€ť
Miller has always been an intriguing case, hence why the Red Sox were willing to sign him to a minor-league deal after acquiring him in a trade with Florida last November. His opt-out date was clearly the focus of the baseball universe, as several scouts were on hand in addition to Red Sox senior advisor Jeremy Kapstein.
â€śI donâ€™t have any complaints,â€ť said Miller. â€śThis has been a good fit for me.â€ť
A bases loaded, two-out, two-run single off the bat of Jim Gallagher gave Charlotte the lead for good in the 11th after the Knights tied the game in the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly against Hideki Okajima. Pawtucketâ€™s lone run came on a RBI single by newcomer Ryan Lavarnway in the bottom of the first.
Charlotte 010 000 000 02 â€“ 4-11-3
Pawtucket 100 001 000 00 â€“ 2-8-1
Dylan Axelrod, Shane Lindsay (10), Josh Kinney (11) and Tyler Flowers. Andrew Miller, Scott Atchison (6), Hideki Okajima (8), Clevelan Santeliz (10), Tony Pena Jr. (11) and Luis Exposito. 2B: Lastings Milledge; Daniel Nava. HR: Dallas McPherson.
WP: Lindsay (2-0). LP: Santeliz (2-3). Save: Kinney (5).