PAWTUCKET — Sometimes staying put may well prove the best option. Kevin Millwood agrees, hence why he’s not looking to leave the Red Sox organization anytime soon.
“I enjoy it here and feel that there could be some opportunity in the future [to once more pitch in the big leagues],” said Millwood, addressing the thought process behind not exercising a recent opt-out date in his contract. “It just seemed like a good situation to stay here and keep pitching. “My biggest thing is this is a place I’ve enjoyed. I like the organization and hopefully it works out.”
That said, Boston won’t stand in Millwood’s way should another team come knocking. “Best-case scenario, I get an opportunity with (Boston). If another team wanted me, it wouldn’t be an issue. The great thing about being [in Pawtucket] right now is that I can pitch here and have options.”
Millwood says there’s isn’t a gentleman’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. “I’m just trying to pitch well and hopefully I can get up there.”
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.
“His stuff isn’t what it used to be, but he knows how to get guys out. He comes at you with everything he’s got,” surmised Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler. “He commands the baseball and still has quality stuff. The experience he brings is something you can’t teach. He knows how to pitch.
“I haven’t talked to him much about his situation,” Beyeler continued, “but he’s enjoyed it here and feels like he’s going to get an opportunity and hopefully there’s a future for him from that standpoint.”
Said Millwood, “I’m probably at a point where I can get guys out, no matter if it’s this level [Triple-A] or the next level.”
It’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 Yankees’ farm system and with the PawSox, Millwood said it simply boiled down to scoping out what best fit his needs.
“I thought (the Yankees) were pretty much set where they were for awhile,” 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 it’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.
“I enjoying talking about the game with guys but I’m not going to force my beliefs on anyone,” Millwood said. “I’m willing to share what I know.”
“He’s great for the young guys and a good example as far seeing how he works and how he goes about his business,” Beyeler said. “We’re happy to have him around.”