JUPITER, Fla. — Wade Miley will get his share of attention this season. One, because he’s new to the Red Sox, and two, because he’s Boston’s only lefthander in the rotation.
Is this good or bad? Or neither?
The American League has a lot of very good righthanded hitters. Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Adrian Beltre, J.J. Hardy. You’ve got Jose Abreu, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Torii Hunter, Albert Pujols, etc.
There are good lefthanded hitters in the league as well. From Robinson Cano to Jacoby Ellsbury, Joe Mauer, Kyle Seager, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Brett Gardner, and a few switch-hitters who are better from the left side.
“In our situation, we take the best guys available,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “Fact is, righthanded or lefthanded, we’re always looking to improve if needed.”
General manager Ben Cherington also didn’t seem to think there was a big need to have another lefty in the rotation. He was looking for the five best starters he could get, regardless of which arm they use to pitch.
It’s not as if the Red Sox are alone in this. Look at the other AL East teams. Tampa Bay will have two lefties in its rotation when Matt Moore returns in May to join Drew Smyly. The Yankees have CC Sabathia returning and Chris Capuano in the No. 5 slot until righthander Ivan Nova is ready. The Orioles have one lefty, Wei-Yin Chen. The Blue Jays have Mark Buehrle, but Daniel Norris could also make the rotation.
The Red Sox have lefties Eduardo Rodriguez, Henry Owens, and Brian Johnson in the minors if needed.
Someplace in the rotation, Miley will break up the righthanded pitchers. It could be on the front end, where Clay Buchholz and Rick Porcello look like No. 1 and No. 2, or it could come in the No. 3 slot before Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson.
Lefthanded batters hit .261 against the Red Sox last season. Buchholz got tagged for a .284 average vs. lefties in 2014, but in his career, that number is just .254. Porcello was at .268 last year with Detroit, far below his career average of .299. As part of a forgettable 2014 season, lefties hit Masterson at a .320 clip; for his career it’s .287.
Among the Sox’ righthanded starters, Kelly was the best against lefties last year at .243. But his career average is .267. Miley held lefties to a .265 average in 2014 with a .727 OPS; righties were .270, .752.
Miley has thrown 200-plus innings in each of the last two seasons with Arizona and fell six innings short the year before, his first full season in the majors. He works quickly like Buehrle, but throws as hard as Jon Lester. He’s 28 years old and seems to be coming into his prime years.
Can he become a Lester-type pitcher? Scouts believe that from a workload point of view, he could, but when it comes to pure talent, he won’t reach Lester’s level.
The Red Sox traded Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa to get him. The Diamondbacks want power arms and didn’t think Miley quite fit the mold.
Farrell said he may determine where Miley is slotted based on matchups.
“It’s early enough in camp where we could make those adjustments if need be,” Farrell said.
Miley pitched the first three innings of the Red Sox’ 3-0 win over the Cardinals Monday, allowing three hits and two walks while facing four lefthanded batters.
Miley showed some good offspeed pitches, particularly his changeup.
“I felt good, but not quite where I want to be,” he said. “I have to tighten up the command a little bit. Still getting there. It’s close.”
Miley said he usually has his secondary pitches in synch early.
“I normally have a pretty good feel for them,” he said.
He was also very impressed with Christian Vazquez. Miley said he lets his catcher call the game.
“He really cares about the staff,” Miley said. “He’s one of the first guys I heard from. He sees the whole field. He understands what I need to do. He has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen.”
Miley said he tries not to think too much about the differences between the leagues. He doesn’t get caught up in having to face a DH instead of the pitcher.
“I don’t look at that too much,” he said. “Three outs an inning. I like to get it and go. I’m just trying to get my team back in the dugout as fast as possible.”
It’ll be interesting to see if having one lefty in the rotation creates matchup problems. But the Red Sox just want five solid starters getting people out.