Not since February 26, when Sox prospect Kyle Weiland was given the ball to face Northeastern, has a Boston starter faced a softer lineup than the one Andrew Miller faced last night. So it figured that Miller would be able to dazzle in his Fenway debut. Maybe ring up eight over seven innings. Make a couple of AAAA players look foolish. Perhaps scatter five hits and a couple of runs.
No matter the competition, a performance like that would have stoked the partisans and instantly turned Miller into an “option.” Big arm. Sharp hook. Sneaky change. “This guy is the real deal,” would have been the theme heard on today’s radio shows.
Unfortunately, Miller’s performance last night didn’t quite fit this narrative. Up against a PUNY lineup, Miller was only able to get 17 outs and not before he gave up seven hits, three walks and three runs. That line translates into a game score of 46, which is really more like a 36 when you discount it for the quality of the completion. And “36,” according to my baseball dictionary, is synonymous with neither “option” or “real deal.”
Look, it is only one game so it is hardly fair to label the Miller “experiment” a failure just yet. And in Miller’s defense, he did show a pretty nasty “swing and miss” hook. But I expected more from Miller against the Pacific Coast League Padres. The same Padres who are last in the NL in scoring, last in hitting and last in slugging.
That Miller wasn’t able to dominate that lineup is hardly enough evidence needed to convict Miller of a crime. But it is a piece of evidence that leads to further questioning. And if subsequent starts against Pittsburgh and Houston don’t produce better results, it seems like Miller won’t be an “option” when the schedule rolls back to the AL time zone.
And just in case you think I am making too big a deal about the Padres incompetence, this is all you really need to know. The Red Sox were so unimpressed with tonight’s competition that they decided to give Josh Beckett the night off. The thinking being that the club can throw just about anyone out there and probably pick up a win. Now the club is saying that Beckett has “the shits” but do you really think Montezuma’s Revenge would have led the Sox to scratch Beckett 20 hours before a start against New York or Tampa?
Obviously, the big loser here is Beckett who might have easily thrown another one-hitter tonight, thus lengthening his slim lead in that Cy Young race. But those are the breaks and into the void steps Alfredo Aceves, the Sox number eight starter coming out of Spring Training. His credentials as a competent “fill-in” need little cementing but the bet here is he will do just fine as Beckett’s fill-in. I can’t say the same about Miller next weekend in Pittsburgh.