ST. PETERSBURG -- After several years of struggling to live up to scouting reports, Andrew Miller has at last hit his stride in the Major Leagues.
Coincidence or not, the transformation has happened in his first full season as a relief pitcher.
Miller has pitched in 49 games for the Red Sox, all in relief. He has a 3.29 ERA and a .191 opponents' batting average. The lanky lefty has notched 47 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings.
"Ultimately, I think some of the adjustments I've made the last couple of years are paying off and I've thrown the ball the way I think I'm capable of doing it," Miller said. "I think my stuff is back to the level I felt like it should have been for a long time."
Manager Bobby Valentine has found Miller to be a mid to late-inning reliever he can count on.
"I think Andrew has developed into a terrific pitcher," Valentine said. "I think he started in a very questionable place and now has a real secure foothold on being able to compete at the Major League level."
Miller, 27, thinks his improved arm slot has had perhaps more to do with his turnaround than the switch in roles.
"I just think I got in some bad habits," Miller said. "I just think I was costing myself a lot of power. It doesn't just take power off your fastball. It makes your breaking pitches worse. I think just getting my arm slot to a lower level, probably where it was five, six years ago, has been the difference-maker. I'm just trying to keep things simple."
The immediacy of life in the bullpen is something Miller has taken to.
"It's kind of been nice coming to the park every day knowing there's a good chance I'm going to pitch or at least have to get up and be ready," Miller said. "I think that helps prevent the mind from wandering a little bit. I think a lot of times it's tough as a starter. If you're not doing well, you have four or five days to think about it. As a reliever, you have a rough one, you'll be back out there pretty soon and you have to get over it."
It remains to be seen how Miller will be used going forward, but he's clearly proven to be a viable reliever.
"I think he could be a dominating force in the bullpen," Valentine said. "I'm not sure how that would translate as a starter."
Struggling at plate, Iglesias feels he's turned corner
ST. PETERSBURG -- A day after Jose Iglesias was lifted for a pinch-hitter in mid at-bat by manager Bobby Valentine, he was back in the lineup for Monday night's game against the Rays, batting ninth.
Despite numbers (2-for-28) that indicate he's been overmatched at the plate since being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Iglesias feels he has turned a corner recently and that the results will soon prove it.
"I've felt pretty good in the last few days. That's what matters to me." Iglesias said. "I feel more comfortable at home plate. I'm starting to have some good at-bats."
Iglesias has spent plenty of extra time in the cage with hitting coach Dave Magadan.
What has been the focus?
"Just talking about swinging at strikes," Iglesias said. "I think I'm going to do better and I've been feeling better the last few days."
Plate discipline might sound pretty straightforward, but it's a complex aspect of the game, particularly for someone who still lacks experience.
"With him it's hard to even get into the mechanics of his swing, because for me it begins and ends with pitch selection," said Magadan. "He needs to work on the recognition of pitches, and not only fastball to curveball, fastball to slider, but it's fastball strike, fastball, ball. I think that's just going to come with experience."
Of course, there's only one way for the 22-year-old Iglesias to get that experience.
"He needs to play," Magadan said. "He needs the experience of the at-bats and the grinding of the at-bat. The rhythm of the at-bat. He's never played more than 100 or so games. He's probably only got all told about two years of at-bats. For a kid who didn't have a lot of experience when he was younger and came over, I think the big thing is to get those at-bat experiences.
"We can go in the cage and we can work until we're blue in the face and we can take batting practice, and mechanically he's OK. He just has to understand whether to, 'Swing at this pitch, whether or not to swing at this pitch. What am I looking for? Am I recognizing what I'm looking for?' Those are all things you gain that edge after having a lot of at-bats under your belt."
Iglesias has 979 career at-bats in the Minors, and 34 with the Red Sox.
"Baseball is the same. Maybe the game is a little faster [in the Majors], and I need to try to slow down a little bit, but I feel fine," Iglesias said.
Iglesias has had plenty of support from veteran teammates, including Dustin Pedroia, who knows what it is like to struggle as a callup from the Minors.
"Oh yeah," said Iglesias. "[Pedroia] just tells me every day, 'Keep my head up. Enjoy it, have a good time here.'"