CHICAGO -- Reliever Andrew Miller celebrated his 28th birthday on Tuesday with the satisfaction of knowing he's performed like one of the best setup men in the game this season.
Miller entered the game with 15.4 strikeouts per nine innings, ranking him third among Major League relievers. The lefty has pitched in 20 games, posting a 3.86 ERA and holding opponents to a .216 average and .608 OPS.
His numbers would be even better if not for one disastrous outing on April 21, when Miller gave up three runs and two hits in one-third of an inning.
"I feel pretty good right now," Miller said. "I think I went through some stretches last year that were pretty similar to this. When you're throwing the ball well, you just try to make it last as long as you can. When you struggle, you try to come out of it as quick as you can. Right now, I'm getting outs and just trying to keep it that way and ride it out as long as I possibly can."
It turns out that a hamstring injury Miller suffered in Spring Training of 2012 might be the turning point of his career. Since time grew short for him, the Red Sox had no choice but to rush him back as a reliever rather than the original plan -- stretching him out as a starter.
As a full-time reliever, Miller has turned into a highly-dependable pitcher, something that eluded him earlier in his career.
"Last year, it was new to me and I came into camp as a starter and then was hurt," Miller said. "I was kind of thrown into it because that was the only way they could fit me in. Still, I think, it was a good thing for me. I took to it pretty well and learned a lot and what I told them coming in this year what that whatever I did last year, I would just try to improve upon it. I don't see any reason why I shouldn't. It's a long season. It's still early, but I'm trying to get better every day and learn from my mistakes."
Ellsbury still in leadoff spot -- for now
CHICAGO -- When the slumping Jacoby Ellsbury arrived at U.S. Cellular Field for Tuesday night's game against the White Sox, he was still in his customary leadoff spot.
However, a change could happen before long if Ellsbury doesn't get in a groove.
"We have considered it, yes," said manager John Farrell. "And we're sticking with him to hopefully give him the opportunity to come out of the situation he's in right now. But I can say this: whether he's hitting first or whether he's hitting somewhere else in the lineup, there are still things we have to address and he has to address. Those are ongoing."
Perhaps the change would have occurred on Tuesday had Shane Victorino not suffered a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the lineup. He would be the logical person to lead off for Boston if Ellsbury gets dropped.
"We're trying to keep some element of speed at the top of the order, but that's not the overriding thing," said Farrell. "It's still where Jake has hit most of his career. With Shane being out of the lineup, yeah, we would like to have that blend of speed and on-base ability, even though the on-base ability right now has been less than [normal]."
Entering Tuesday action, Ellsbury was hitting .241 with one homer, 14 RBIs and a .303 on-base percentage. In 86 plate appearances in May, Ellsbury is hitting .179 with a .256 on-base percentage.
In Monday's game, he hit four straight groundouts to second base, one for a double play.
"Again, it comes down to timing," Farrell said. "Timing at the plate -- whether it's four ground balls to second base or whether it's three line drives to third base. He's in a situation where he's working to do what he can to get out of this and we're working there with him. This isn't a matter of effort. It's a matter of maybe being a little bit more free of mind and letting that natural ability take over."
Victorino day to day, hopes to avoid DL
CHICAGO -- Despite a series of nagging injuries -- the latest a left hamstring strain -- Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino has been able to avoid a trip to the disabled list so far.
However, there's at least a chance Victorino will have to be shut down if his condition doesn't improve in the coming days.
The veteran was out of Tuesday night's lineup after injuring his hamstring while running from first to third in the sixth inning on Monday.
"I can't say that we've eliminated that thought," said manager John Farrell, when asked if Victorino might need to go on the DL. "We're not any closer than we were last night to making a roster move at this point."
In fact, the Sox might still give it a few more days.
"We've got to have him respond to treatment," said Farrell. "We've got to have him be symptom free when we do put him back on the field. Right now, we still think this is a short-term thing, but we've got to let this continue to subside. Hopefully, like I said, he's back to us in short order."
Victorino's main injury this season has been his back, and he aggravated that when he had a vicious collision with the bullpen wall at Fenway Park on May 12.
The Red Sox are unsure if the back injury has somehow trickled down to Victorino's current hamstring woes.
"Based on the reports that we have here, I don't know that I've got the medical background to say that it's independent of one another," said Farrell. "When you start to consider low back and hamstring, at some point, they're inter-related, so we've got to treat the symptoms."
Varitek to represent Red Sox at this year's Draft
CHICAGO -- The Red Sox will have former captain Jason Varitek as one of their representatives at this year's First-Year Player Draft, which starts June 6 in Secaucus, N.J.
The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place June 6-8, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on June 6 at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 7, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on June 8, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Varitek, who retired prior to the 2012 season, was Boston's captain from 2005-11. He was a key member on two World Series championships and helped guide the Red Sox to the postseason eight times in his 15 seasons with the club.
Area scout Danny Watkins, who monitors amateur players in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, will be Boston's other representative.
• Catcher David Ross had another good day back in Boston while recovering from a concussion and should start a Minor League rehab stint by the end of the week.
• Reliever Daniel Bard, who walked nine batters in his last two outings at Double-A Portland, has not pitched since May 15.
"He's back to throwing [bullpen sessions] right now," said Farrell.
When will he pitch in another game at Double-A?
"Once there's some repetition to the [bullpen sessions]," Farrell said.
• Prospect Jose Iglesias is starting to broaden his horizons at Triple-A Pawtucket. A shortstop by trade, Iglesias started Tuesday's game at third base.
"You see a guy that's a very capable defender that we want to get exposure to other places in the event that if we do happen to take a look at him being in that utility role at some point this year," said Farrell. "We still view him as an everyday shortstop, but in the interim, we're trying to prepare for the potential of coming and filling that role."