FORT MYERS, Fla. -- For years, Spring Training has represented a fresh start for lanky lefty Andrew Miller. It is a time when he could go back to the drawing board and try to get back to being the dominant pitcher that made him a first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
If the 26-year-old Miller wants to take one of those spots by the throat and not give it back, nobody would complain.
In his first outing of the Grapefruit League season on Sunday, Miller fired two scoreless innings against the Twins, walking one and striking out three.
"He made an adjustment after the first hitter and didn't let it all get away from him," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "He was throwing four-seam fastballs to the first hitter. It wasn't his plan. He wanted to throw two-seamers and his breaking ball. He made an adjustment out of the stretch to the next hitter and seemed to be in the driver's seat."
Pitching for the Tigers, Marlins and Red Sox, Miller has tried one adjustment after another. Perhaps the tandem of Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure will finally provide just the message he needs.
"I thought at the beginning of this spring that we needed to have one voice getting into his head, and Bob has done a very good job of getting a consensus, which we got from the first day we looked at it and then staying with it," said Valentine.
A big part of McClure's message is simplification of the delivery.
"To his credit, he's tried to get better by doing different things," McClure said. "Sometimes that can hurt, because the ability to sift through the information that works for you and [get rid of] the rest that doesn't is important. Your sift mechanism has to work.
"The best ones in my opinion are the ones that are committed to what they do well. They're committed to do other things. But they'll use what works for them when they try it. The stuff that doesn't, they'll just get rid of it. What happens is you get lost if you try too much at doing everything. I think that might have happened a little bit. We're just trying to get back to where it all started."
Valentine is impressed by the early returns.
"Nothing in excess is good in life," Valentine said. "He was excessively across his body [in his delivery]. He found the happy medium in a little different place on the pitching rubber for direction, and I think now he's in a comfortable place. I know he told a lot of the players he wanted to be across his body. 'He was just going to do it. That's just what he does.' And he probably told you guys the same thing. The way he was when he first came in was not functional. It's much better now." However, maybe this is finally the spring where Miller has his true breakthrough instead of just the hope for it. The Red Sox have a vacancy in the rotation and some spots up for grabs in the bullpen.
I remember watching Andrew Miller pitch for UNC in the CWS so maybe I just bought into the hype like everybody else - but he was damn good. He was regularly blowing 97-99 with a hard slider and looked to be a can't miss, straight to the big leagues type of player - and apparently the Tigers thought the same thing because that is exactly what happened. Lo and behold he's now a 26 year old "never was" with a chance to finally break through here in Boston. Maybe going back to his old motion and battling it out for a spot with his UNC teammate Daniel Bard will invoke some old juices inside Miller. He could answer a very big question that's hanging over the Red Sox: Who will be the 5th starter?
Pete Mastors 3/05/2012 02:03:00 PM Tweet