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Minor League notebook

Miller warms up to Buchholz’s idea

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / June 3, 2011

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. — There really wasn’t a eureka moment when they hit upon an idea that seemed to work wonders for Andrew Miller.

“It wasn’t like I looked to the sky and got down on my knees or anything like that,’’ said Miller.

It was just an idea Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur borrowed from Clay Buchholz, who would throw a simulated inning in the bullpen as a way of warming up before a start when he was with the PawSox two years ago.

Looking to navigate some rough patches in the early going of his first three starts — he allowed 17 runs (13 earned) on 25 hits and 32 walks in 40 1/3 innings — Miller adopted the technique Sunday before going out in relief of Bobby Jenks, who made a one-inning rehab start against Indianapolis.

“The idea was to throw a little bit longer and try to pick up the intensity in the bullpen warming up for the game,’’ said Miller, a 6-foot-7-inch lefthander who appeared in the majors in his six seasons since being selected by the Tigers in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2006 draft out of North Carolina, where he was a teammate of Daniel Bard.

“Rich mentioned that Buchholz does something similar, where he goes out and throws early, then sits down and gets up and throws again,’’ Miller said. “I figured, ‘Why not?’ Not that it’s been a bad year, but it’s been a battle every start to the game before I settle in.’’

Miller wound up pitching seven shutout innings, earning the win to improve to 2-2 (2.47 ERA).

Sauveur said the effect of having Miller throw a simulated inning in the bullpen is that when he gets into the game, “It’s like the second inning.

“I mean, it was pretty fun to watch, because he didn’t face more than four hitters in the inning,’’ Sauveur said. “If you don’t want to call it lights out, it was as close as you could get to it. He had decent command of the fastball, command of the curveball, and it was fun to watch.

“His changeup was good and he pitched ahead more than he ever has this year. I think he threw 80 pitches in seven innings. It was fantastic. Did we unlock something? Let’s hope so.’’

The PawSox may find out tonight when Miller takes the mound against the Durham Bulls.

“It was nice to have an easy couple of first innings, because that’s how you pitch well, that’s how you pitch deep into the game,’’ Miller said. “Throwing 40-45 pitches in the first two innings, or 25 pitches in the first inning, yeah it’s nice if you don’t give up any runs or if you battle through it every now and then.

“But at the same time, it gets old having to do it every time out. It’d be nice to have a 1-2-3 first inning or a 12-pitch first inning. It just sets the tone in the beginning.

“Whether that’s attributed to a combination of different things, I don’t know. Maybe it was an adjustment I made at the end of the Toledo game, maybe it was the warm-up. I don’t know.

“But whatever it is, I’m going to stick with all of them and go out there and try to do it again.’’

Millwood rusty Kevin Millwood, the 36-year-old veteran who signed a minor league deal, had a shaky start in his PawSox debut Wednesday night. In Pawtucket’s 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Norfolk, he allowed four runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings.

“It was one of those nights where I didn’t have a clue where my fastball was going,’’ said Millwood, who opted out of the Yankees organization after making two starts (1-1, 8.00 ERA) in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. “I felt like I need to iron that out in order to be in a good place.’’

Millwood had not thrown for almost a month before reporting to Fort Myers, Fla., for extended spring training.

“I was able to throw off the mound and get myself ready so I could at least go five innings when I got here,’’ he said. “I was able to do that pretty quick.

“It’s always going to be a mechanical battle, and I’m trying to get those things ironed out. When that happens, that’s when you start to feel comfortable.’’

Millwood said velocity was not an issue. It was the location of his fastball.

“That’s really the only thing I need to work on,’’ he said. “All my breaking balls were good, but I’m not a guy who stands up there and throws a ton of breaking balls all night long. I locate my fastball and that’s what makes me good. When I iron that out, I’ll be in a good place.’’

As far as leaving the Yankees to join the Sox, Millwood said, “It’s just a great opportunity. Once I opted out from New York, I went home and wondered what was going to happen. I was hoping for a good situation to come along to give me a chance, or least an opportunity to play for a good team, and what better team than this?’’

Doubront fires away Felix Doubront threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings vs. the Tides Monday night after coming off the disabled list (groin pull) that day. He allowed one hit, with two walks and five strikeouts. “My curveball and changeup both worked,’’ said Doubront, who will make his next start tomorrow night vs. Durham. “When I got hot, I was able to throw the fastball good. My off-speed pitches worked a lot.’’ . . . Junichi Tazawa, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2010, made his third rehab start for Single A Salem Wednesday night. It was one of his better outings, as he threw two no-hit innings, issuing one walk while striking out two . . . After going 6-25 in May, things might be looking up for the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. Against New Britain Wednesday, the Sea Dogs trailed, 8-0, after two innings, then rallied for an 18-9 victory, scoring 10 runs over the final two innings. Catcher Ryan Lavarnway went 4 for 5 with 3 RBIs, including a two-run homer (his 12th of the season). DH Tim Federowicz also went 4 for 5, with 2 RBIs. The Sea Dogs hit eight doubles, including two each by Jeremy Hazelbaker, Chih-Hsien Chiang, and Vladimir Frias . . . So how did Josh Reddick spend his day off? The Sox outfielder enjoyed a busman’s holiday last night at McCoy Stadium, joining Dan Hoard and Steve Hyder in the radio booth.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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