He had bump on road
Miller's outing unlike the others
TORONTO -- Perhaps this was going just a bit too smoothly, the steady, systematic progress that marked Wade Miller's introduction to the Red Sox' rotation. His pitch count had increased each start, 91 to 105 to 106. His innings, too, had climbed, 5 to 5 2/3 to 6 1/3. He'd allowed just six runs in 17 innings, compiling a 1-0 record and 3.18 ERA.
And then came last night, when, in Miller's honest assessment, ''everything went to hell."
Miller exited after 60 pitches, two innings, and seven runs, all earned, in his shortest outing since Sept. 23, 2003 (1 1/3 innings vs. San Francisco). He allowed six runs in the first inning, including five with two outs.
''Mechanically," Miller said, ''I was just a mess out there."
That might be easily corrected, something a bullpen session with pitching coach Dave Wallace or a video session or sit-down with catcher Jason Varitek on the plane to New York last night might remedy. But this could just as easily be something foreboding. The Sox tweaked/rebuilt Miller's mechanics during spring training, seeking to reduce the stress his motion was putting on the labrum that frayed last season, prematurely ending his year and jeopardizing his future.
Miller's velocity was down last night, and the fear, spoken or not, is that without his best stuff he's likely to revert to his prior delivery when he's in a jam.
''My arm's not dead right now," Miller contended. ''My arm feels good. It's just a matter of having the confidence. I haven't had the fastball to be able to throw [it] to a spot. It's a little weird at times.
''Physically, I feel fine. Arm angle was just everywhere. That's pretty much how everything went to hell."
That can lead to improvisation on the mound, and, for that reason, manager Terry Francona and Wallace were quick to give Miller the hook.
''To me, leaving him out there for four innings, whatever, to get to 95, 100 pitches just because he can, didn't seem to make a lot of sense," Francona said following the Sox' 8-1 loss to the Blue Jays, Boston's eighth defeat in 12 games.
''If we're going to get beat tonight, let's give him a chance to come back the next time and have that 93-94 [mile-per-hour fastball], with the breaking ball that we've seen. That's the thinking."
Reed Johnson, suddenly a terror atop the Toronto lineup, welcomed Miller with a triple to center. Orlando Hudson scored Johnson with a sacrifice fly to center, and Alex Rios grounded out. Miller was down just 1-0 with two outs.
''I was a pitch or two from getting out of it with one run," he said. ''And it blew up in my face."
The next six batters reached: Shea Hillenbrand walked, Eric Hinske homered, Vernon Wells walked, Gregg Zaun singled, Aaron Hill walked, and Russ Adams doubled.
Hinske's homer was a two-run screamer that traveled 408 feet into the second deck, and Adams's double out of the No. 9 spot emptied the bases. Hinske hit a fastball, Adams a changeup. Hinske, according to Varitek, was looking for something up and in.
''He looked and gambled and got it," Varitek said. ''It was a good, quality pitch."
Miller's take: ''I didn't think it was bad when I let it go. It probably wasn't a great pitch. If I'm going to have it up, I have to throw it more in."
He needed 43 pitches to get out of the inning, which finally ended with a liner to shortstop Edgar Renteria by Johnson.
''We checked [Miller] after the first inning because I think we have an obligation to do that, because of his history," Francona said. ''He said he was fine."
In the second, Hudson greeted Miller with a single. Miller then fanned Rios for his only strikeout. He had struck out at least two in each of his previous 28 starts.
Hillenbrand then singled, scoring Hudson, lowering the Sox into a 7-0 hole. Asked if a start like this is just the reality of coming off an injury, Miller said, ''Yeah, probably. I'll take this. You've got to take the bad with the good. I'm not going to have great starts every time out.
''You're going to have things like this when you're perfectly fine. [This performance] might get blown up [in the media] a little bit because I've had these injuries, but that's not the case. I haven't had my best fastball and I've been able to get outs. It's a matter of cutting balls better and being able to get strikes. I think it's purely mechanics. My arm feels fine."
Francona is keenly aware that Miller pitched through pain last summer, but the skipper said he's not worried about the righthander doing more than he's capable of.
''I think he's been through enough -- he's a tough kid -- that I don't think he wants to do anything dumb, risky," Francona said. ''We kind of took it out of his hands [after the second inning]. [Wallace] and I just felt it was the right thing to do."