PAWTUCKET — Kevin Millwood’s tenure with the Pawtucket Red Sox has come to an end. Now the 36-year-old will have to weigh whether to seek out another opportunity or bow out gracefully, a decision that could be complicated based on the right-handed pitcher’s belief that he still has something to give.
For now, though, Millwood plans on visiting family he has based up and down the East Coast and squeeze in as many rounds of golf as possible. That sounds like someone who isn’t optimistic he’ll be on a mound again this season.
“(The call from another team) would have to come relatively quick,” said Millwood on Sunday afternoon, one day after he asked for and was granted his unconditional release by Boston. “I’m not going to throw, play catch and things like that. Something is going to have to happen soon, but I’m not really looking for that.”
Said Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur, “There’s 30 teams in the big leagues and I guarantee that he could be pitching for one of them right now.”
It turns out that one team (the Red Sox) didn’t view Millwood as a possible option. Speaking to Blackstone Valley Sports after exchanging farewell hugs and handshakes with teammates and team personnel in the PawSox clubhouse, Millwood was asked if events such as the promotion of Kyle Weiland for two starts last month and the July 31 deadline acquisition of Erik Bedard helped him realize that a return trip to the majors was not going to happen under Boston’s watch.
“Of course it’s a little disappointing, but at the same time that’s how this game is. Nothing is guaranteed,” Millwood said, dressed in shorts, t-shirt and a cap. “A little disappointing, yeah, but at the same time I still really appreciate the opportunity [the Red Sox provided]. I guess it’s just that time.”
The idea of leaving the PawSox and the Red Sox organization is something Millwood started contemplating “probably a week ago.” He informed manager Arnie Beyeler of his plans following last Friday’s start against Buffalo. After thinking things through one final time, Millwood returned to McCoy Stadium Saturday to empty out his locker stall. An equipment bag with a PawSox logo on it was perched upon the stool outside his locker on Sunday, which Millwood returned to collect.
“I had kind of made up my mind before my last start, but I didn’t want to do something before that and leave these guys hanging out to dry and put the pitching staff in a bad spot,” Millwood said. “I’d figure I’d go ahead and make that start and let it be known after that.”
The Red Sox signed Millwood to a minor-league contract May 19 after he had opted out his pact with the New York Yankees earlier in the month. He wound up making 13 starts for Pawtucket, posting a record of 5-1 with a 4.28 ERA with the team sporting an 11-2 record in those games. In seven of his starts, Millwood allowed three or fewer runs.
A client of baseball super-agent Scott Boras, Millwood spent all of last offseason waiting for a team to call. Eventually the Yankees took a flyer on an aging pitcher who endured a miserable 2010 season with Baltimore (4-16 with a 5.10 ERA) and signed Millwood with less than a week remaining in spring training.
Sauveur was asked how detrimental the late start to the 2011 season was for Millwood.
“I think (a full spring training) would have helped him,” Sauveur said. “Two years ago the Red Sox called Paul Byrd from his back porch and he wound up pitching for them. Having a guy ready to go from here would be just that much better, but I respect his decision and have done so from the first pitch he threw here to the last one he threw on Friday. I’ve had big leaguers come down from Boston and he stands right up there with those guys.”
If anything, Millwood’s stint with Pawtucket restored his faith that he can still be a pretty effective pitcher. Time will tell if some MLB team agrees.
“I’m not closing the book completely,” was the caution flag Millwood hoisted up.
“Does he have overpowering stuff? No. Can he get hitters out? Absolutely,” Sauveur stated.
If this is the last hurrah for Millwood, he leaves with an impressive resume in tow.
He broke in with Atlanta in 1997 and complimented a pitching staff that included three future Hall of Famers in Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. A native of
North Carolina, Millwood’s career has hit plenty of high notes, from pitching a scoreless inning in the ’99 All-Star Game at Fenway Park to starting a World Series game later that season.
He tossed a no-hitter for Philadelphia in April 2003 and received the mega-payday all players strive for when he earned $60 million between 2005-10 based on a contract he signed with Texas in December 2005.
In 14 seasons Millwood has won 159 games while losing 137 times with a 4.11 ERA.
Time will tell if those numbers – along with the $88,667,793 he made, that according to baseball-reference.com – will either be altered or stay the same.
“No regrets,” Millwood said. “I know I can go home and lay my head down on the pillow and know that I accomplished a lot and did a lot of things that not many people had a chance to do and I know I did it the right way. I’m OK with that.”