Lefty Miller feels he’s in right place

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By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / February 9, 2011

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FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox traded for lefthander Andrew Miller Nov. 12, sending lefthanded reliever Dustin Richardson to the Florida Marlins in exchange.

Then on Dec. 3, they decided not to offer Miller a major league contract, making him a free agent.

Miller then was signed to a minor league contract by the Sox Dec. 16 and invited to spring training.

Confused? You can imagine how Miller must have felt.

“It surprised me because they gave up a player to get me, then they let me go,’’ Miller said yesterday. “But there was no animosity, none at all.’’

Before they let him go, the Sox explained to Miller the method behind their apparent madness. Miller was in need of a career intervention after posting an 8.54 earned run average in nine appearances for the Marlins. His work in the minor leagues — a 5.35 ERA in 21 starts — was unimpressive as well.

A former first-round pick, Miller quickly was sliding into anonymity. But the 25-year-old was out of minor league options, meaning he would have to be exposed to waivers if taken off the 40-man roster.

The Sox wanted to sign Miller to a minor league deal, giving him the opportunity to stay with the organization if he did not make the team out of spring training. That way, any progress made would not be interrupted by again changing teams.

Miller used his two weeks as a free agent to mull the future.

“Everything I had heard about the organization was positive,’’ he said. “When it came down to weighing all the factors, it was an easy decision.’’

Miller is out to impress his new team, having arrived at spring training early. He also spent a few days in Boston last month working with pitching coach Curt Young. The Sox, he believes, can unlock his potential.

“I think it’s a great organization with a chance to win,’’ he said. “Where I’m at in my career, I certainly haven’t fulfilled my expectations or certainly other people’s expectations. If there’s any place where I can come win and grow into what I can be, it’s here.’’

Miller is 15-26 with a 5.84 ERA over parts of five seasons, a sharp disappointment considering the Tigers made him the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft after three dominant seasons at North Carolina (27-9, 325 strikeouts in 309 innings, 2.77 ERA).

Miller made his major league debut less than three months after the draft, pitching a shutout inning against the Yankees.

In his first career start, May 18, 2007, Miller threw six shutout innings against the Cardinals. He dominated the Red Sox later that season, allowing one run on three hits over seven innings.

But Miller lasted only two seasons with the Tigers. He was one of six players Detroit traded to Florida before the 2008 season to obtain Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Then came three rocky seasons with the Marlins.

“I think I need to get the mentality I used to have on the mound back,’’ he said. “I’m going in the right direction. Getting aggressive, being in the right frame of mind, just attack the hitter.’’

The Sox envision Miller becoming a starter. For now, they just want to get him back pitching well. If he gets to the majors this season, it could be as a reliever.

The Nationals and Pirates pursued Miller in December, offering him a chance to earn a spot in their rotation. But he decided taking a step back with the Sox was a better path.

“There might not be room for me,’’ he said. “I’m no dummy. I can look at the roster and see who they’ve got in their rotation and who they’ve got in their bullpen.

“For me, it was a good opportunity to say, ‘You know what? I think I’m in the right hands.’ I’ll give up that opportunity to come here and let them do what they think is right.’’

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