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PAWTUCKET â€” Sometimes staying put may well prove the best option. Kevin Millwood agrees, hence why heâ€™s not looking to leave the Red Sox organization anytime soon.
â€śI enjoy it here and feel that there could be some opportunity in the future [to once more pitch in the big leagues],â€ť said Millwood, addressing the thought process behind not exercising a recent opt-out date in his contract. â€śIt just seemed like a good situation to stay here and keep pitching. â€śMy biggest thing is this is a place Iâ€™ve enjoyed. I like the organization and hopefully it works out.â€ť
That said, Boston wonâ€™t stand in Millwoodâ€™s way should another team come knocking. â€śBest-case scenario, I get an opportunity with (Boston). If another team wanted me, it wouldnâ€™t be an issue. The great thing about being [in Pawtucket] right now is that I can pitch here and have options.â€ť
Millwood says thereâ€™s isnâ€™t a gentlemanâ€™s agreement in place that would require Boston to call him up by a certain date or he could elect free agency, a la the case with Andrew Miller. â€śIâ€™m just trying to pitch well and hopefully I can get up there.â€ť
The 36-year-old Millwood was signed to a minor-league deal by the Red Sox on May 19 to provide organizational starting pitching depth at a point when John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka were sidelined. With Clay Buchholz dealing with a nagging back that has cast doubt regarding when he makes his next start, starting pitching depth is again looking like it could be a source of concern.
From his vantage point in the PawSox clubhouse, Millwood believes things could break favorably in the not-so distant future. In five starts for Pawtucket, Millwood has emerged as a quality insurance policy, going 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA while also allowing two runs or fewer in four of those five starts. He has struck out 30 in 32 innings while opponents are hitting .264 against him.
â€śHis stuff isnâ€™t what it used to be, but he knows how to get guys out. He comes at you with everything heâ€™s got,â€ť surmised Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. â€śHe commands the baseball and still has quality stuff. The experience he brings is something you canâ€™t teach. He knows how to pitch.
â€śI havenâ€™t talked to him much about his situation,â€ť Beyeler continued, â€śbut heâ€™s enjoyed it here and feels like heâ€™s going to get an opportunity and hopefully thereâ€™s a future for him from that standpoint.â€ť
Said Millwood, â€śIâ€™m probably at a point where I can get guys out, no matter if itâ€™s this level [Triple-A] or the next level.â€ť
Itâ€™s worth noting that Millwood is with his second organization in 2011, having opted out of a deal with the New York Yankees on May 1 after failing to get summoned to the majors. Asked what the difference has been between his time toiling in the Yankeesâ€™ farm system and with the PawSox, Millwood said it simply boiled down to scoping out what best fit his needs.
â€śI thought (the Yankees) were pretty much set where they were for awhile,â€ť explained Millwood.
(Like their counterparts in Boston, New York has absorbed some hits to its starting rotation, having lost Phil Hughes for a large portion of the season with shoulder inflammation. Also, Bartolo Colon is poised for re-entry this weekend after a hamstring strain resulted in time on the D.L.).
Being in the same place for an extended period has allowed Millwood to forge a bond with his PawSox teammates. For instance itâ€™s not uncommon to see him engage in card games with his fellow pitchers following batting practice. His locker is situated near Michael Bowden and Felix Doubront, two 20-something pitchers who no doubt can benefit from being around someone who has compiled a 159-137 record in 14 MLB series, credentials that belong to Millwood.
â€śI enjoying talking about the game with guys but Iâ€™m not going to force my beliefs on anyone,â€ť Millwood said. â€śIâ€™m willing to share what I know.â€ť
â€śHeâ€™s great for the young guys and a good example as far seeing how he works and how he goes about his business,â€ť Beyeler said. â€śWeâ€™re happy to have him around.â€ť