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March 24, 2013

Miller as important as anyone in strong Sox bullpen early on

With both southpaw relievers Franklin Morales (bulging disc in lower back) and Craig Breslow (shoulder) sidelined to start this regular season, left-hander Andrew Miller will be as important as anyone in the Red Sox bullpen early on.

Miller, 27, is coming off a career year. He posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 53 relief appearances and 40.1 innings in 2012. He held left-handed batters to a .149 batting average and .245 OBP.

“It was a step in the right direction for me — a big step,” Miller said. “And I felt really good about it. I didn’t finish as strong as I would have liked to. There’s things I can look back on and improve on. I feel like I’ve evaluated that and I know what I want to do.”

Miller, who was the sixth overall pick by Detroit in the 2006 draft, struggled with his control until last year. Even with his strong 2012, he has a career 1.69 WHIP and 5.54 ERA. He has given up 10.0 hits per nine innings in his career, but that number dropped drastically to 6.2 last year.

Miller did surrender 13 of his 20 walks in ‘12 during the final two months.

“I walked a few guys at the end of the year that I shouldn’t have and they tended to come back to bite me,” Miller said. “That’s a big thing. And then I really want to do better against righties.”

Righties batted .263 with a .373 on-base percentage vs. Miller a season ago. He faced 67 right-handed hitters and walked 10 and struck out 18. He faced 102 left-handed batters, walking 10 and striking out 33.

“I just kind of lost my approach on getting righties out (as last year progressed), and I think I know how I want to approach that this year. I’m ready to fix that,” said Miller, a Gainesville, Fla., native who was the Baseball America National Player of the Year at the University of North Carolina.

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