EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 22, 2013

Who came to spring training with biggest beard?

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — Most every member of the Red Sox has joined in the grow-a-beard fun at one point or another this season. Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross have the longest and most grotesque ones right now.

But who started the trend?

With photographic evidence, it’s clear reliever Andrew Miller, who began growing his facial hair last season, entered spring training with the biggest beard and shaggiest haircut.

“I think Jonny has had that one for a while,” Miller said when asked if he was the first. “I don’t know.”

Gomes was pretty hairy during spring training and Joel Hanrahan — who had season-ending Tommy John surgery in May — had a rather large goatee. But Miller’s facial hair back then took the cake.

Miller had season-ending surgery in July to repair ligament damage in his left foot. Before that, he was a dominating left-handed arm out of the Red Sox bullpen. He posted a 2.64 ERA in 30.2 innings.

“I’ve always had to shave,” Miller told The Eagle-Tribune last August when he began becoming noticeably hairy. “Last year, I was in Pawtucket and there are clean-shaven rules there. I’m a rule-follower so we don’t have to shave here so I wanted to grow out the beard and not shave every day.”

Miller continues to grow his beard because, well, because he can.

“I don’t like having to shave every day,” he said. “There have been rules in the places I’ve been in, in the past. I probably wasn’t able to grow much of a beard when I was in Detroit (at 21 and 22 years old). Honestly, it’s just easy maintenance for me.”

The reliever is enjoying the Red Sox playoff run even though he can’t pitch. The Red Sox clinched the American League East on Friday.

“Certainly a big part of me wants to help out,” Miller said. “I love these guys. This is as fun of a team that I’ll probably ever be around. It was a blast to play with them when I was healthy. It is a good team to be around and they’re doing just fine without me. They’re doing great and I’m pulling for them. I’m their biggest cheerleader.

“At this point, Bail (Andrew Bailey) is in the same boat. So he and I are sitting on the bench all we can. And even though I’m hurt and I’m not contributing on the field, it’s still a group of guys that seems happy to have myself and Andrew around. And that means a lot. I’m here to try to tag along, enjoy the ride and stay out of the way.”

Week’s best quote

John Farrell’s most interesting and telling comment in a long time came Thursday during his pregame press conference. He was asked about the possibility of pinch hitting the right-handed hitting Xander Bogaerts for the left-handed hitting Stephen Drew against lefties late in games.

The question came after Drew grounded into a double play against left-hander T.J. McFarland on Wednesday with two runners on base in the 11th inning.

Drew has struggled against southpaws. He entered Friday batting .183 with a .237 on-base percentage, .331 slugging percentage and .568 OPS in 156 plate appearances against southpaws this season.

“Going forward, when there’s maybe more of a sense of urgency with postseason situations, I’m sure that will be something Stephen and I will talk to well in advance when that situation may come up again,” Farrell said. “Well aware of what Stephen is doing against left-handed pitching. There might be a time for that.”

All that said, Drew has played terrific defense the entire year and it’s difficult to take him out.

ALDS tickets

American League Division Series tickets for games that will be played at Fenway Park will go on sale Tuesday at 12 p.m. on redsox.com or by calling 888-REDSOX6.

Fans with disabilities may call (877) RED-SOX9 beginning at 12 p.m. Hearing impaired patrons may call the TTY line at (617) 226-6644. No tickets will be sold at the Fenway Park ticket office.

There will be a four-ticket limit per fan.

Standing room tickets are $45, bleacher seats $50, grandstand seats $70, right field box seats $115, pavilion box seats $115, loge box seats $170 and field box seats $170.