Notes: Millar happy to be team player

Notes: Millar happy to be team player

BOSTON -- The latest first-base controversy doesn't have Kevin Millar losing any sleep. His recently born twins are probably taking care of that just fine. All Millar wants to do is start hitting again. He'll leave the rest to the talk shows.

Forgive Millar if the arrival of John Olerud has him feeling a little déjà vu.

"It's just six weeks earlier we're starting this," said Millar. "[Doug] Mientkiewicz came over here July [31] last year. Now it's May [31]. But no doubt about it, it feels good when your manager is behind you. I know he's behind me, and that's why I will get out of this sooner than later."

Olerud started twice in a span of three games before Millar went back into the lineup Tuesday night. However, Red Sox manager Terry Francona made it clear that he still has plenty of confidence in Millar.

"This isn't a 'give up on Millar' thing," Francona said. "This is, 'We're trying to be the best team we can.' John Olerud, he's a pretty good player. He's not going to play every day; that's not why we got him."

Olerud clubbed a total of five hits in his two starts, which only adds fuel to the controversy in a market like Boston, particularly considering Millar entered Tuesday's game with a .243 average, two homers and 22 RBIs.

"I just don't believe that when a guy gets a couple of hits, you sit your first baseman down who has done so much for you," said Francona. "That's not the way it's supposed to work. This is a long haul. Sometimes it takes some patience in order for things to work. That's just how I feel about it. Olerud is going to play some, that's for sure. He's a good player."

Millar is the first one to recognize that. Last August, Millar uncharacteristically complained to a small group of reporters prior to a game at Detroit because Mientkiewicz had taken his place in the lineup for the night. As it turned out, Manny Ramirez got sick that night and Millar wound up playing.

Millar promises he won't do that type of public venting this time around.

"I wasn't going to sit behind Doug Mientkiewicz," Millar said. "I can sit behind John Olerud, you know what I'm saying? There's a difference of a track record there. I learned from John Olerud. I mean, Doug Mientkiewicz, I love him to death ... I didn't think we were upgrading. Now, John Olerud and myself is a much better combination than just myself. I'll be fine. I'll get out of this sooner than later and everything will be OK. But right now, Olerud a day here and a day there makes it a better chance to win with certain matchups."

Francona has kept in frequent communication with both Olerud and Millar regarding their roles.

"He's a real pro," Francona said of Millar. "He kind of told me, 'I'll show up and if you put me in there, I'll play, and if you don't, I'll be ready to play.' I said, 'OK, that's terrific.'"

   Curt Schilling  /   P
Born: 11/14/66
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Another test for Schilling: Monday was a significant step forward for Sox ace Curt Schilling, who threw off a mound for the first time since being placed on the disabled list, retroactive to April 24. He took another kind of test on Tuesday, as members of the Red Sox medical staff gave his right ankle a strength test.

There was no immediate word on the results.

Francona was enthused by the work Schilling was able to get in on Monday and thought it was a good sign that the pitcher had a target date (before the All-Star break) for returning.

"He's been perkier the last 10 days," Francona said. "I think yesterday was a good step, though. He went out there and made progress. Any time he makes progress, that's good. When he starts throwing dates around, whether they're right or wrong, that's good for me, because he's got a point to shoot for and I think that does help him along."

Catching up: Backup catcher Doug Mirabelli, disabled since May 19 with a sprained right wrist, is getting to the final stages of his recovery.

"Mirabelli took the other MRI, and the preliminary results were good," Francona said. "They are still waiting to have one other guy read it, because I think that's the proper procedure, and then the doctors will meet with him. And if that goes fine, then he'll get the clearance to start swinging the bat, which we kind of expect. But we'll let it go through the proper procedure."

Mirabelli is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but Francona indicated it will probably be a couple of days beyond that. Don't rule Mirabelli out for June 6 in St. Louis, when knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is slated to start. Jason Varitek will catch Wakefield on Wednesday night against the Orioles.

Francona wasn't sure when Kelly Shoppach will get his next start, though it might not come when David Wells pitches on Friday night against the Angels. Shoppach and Wells worked well together last Sunday in New York, a 7-2 win for the Sox.

"I somewhat want to pay attention to Jason's legs," said Francona. "I don't want to just run him into the ground. I have some ideas, but we'll see how the games go also. Every time you lay it out, you can be one 14-inning game away from that changing in a hurry."

Shaughnessy to speak at Fenway: It is only fitting that Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote the book Curse of the Bambino, has a new book out called Reversing the Curse, which chronicles the historic run made by the 2004 Red Sox.

As part of what the Red Sox call their "Great Fenway Park Writers Series," Shaughnessy, an award-winning columnist for The Boston Globe and the author of several books, will speak at a noon luncheon on Wednesday at the Red Sox Hall of Fame Club. The cost is $35 per person. For more information, call Meghan Donovan at (617) 226-6458.

On deck: Wakefield (4-4, 4.48 ERA) will be opposed by Orioles right-hander Sidney Ponson (5-3, 5.66 ERA) in Wednesday night's contest.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.