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No longer starting, Miller thriving in bullpen

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MINNEAPOLIS -- He was the sixth overall pick of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He was once the centerpiece of a trade for Miguel Cabrera. Now he's filling one of the more anonymous roles on a baseball roster as a middle reliever/setup man, but Andrew Miller and the Red Sox wouldn't have it any other way.

Miller, who scuffled through five difficult seasons with the Tigers and Marlins, came to Boston in 2011 and tried to resurrect his career in the Red Sox's rotation. After posting a 5.55 ERA in 12 starts, Miller was moved to the bullpen, and that's where -- very quietly -- he seems to have found himself a home.

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Last year, Miller went 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 53 relief appearances. This year, his numbers (0-1, 4.15) are a bit skewed by one bad outing, when he gave up three runs in one-third of an inning against Toronto, but after allowing runs in three of his first seven appearances, he's held opponents scoreless in 11 of his last 12 outings.

The southpaw also has the full confidence of manager John Farrell. In the last two games -- both Red Sox victories -- he's thrown 2 1/3 shutout innings, and he retired all five batters he faced Friday night against the Twins. After the game, no matter what question was asked, Farrell kept finding a way to bring it back to Miller's performance.

"Andrew Miller, what he did last night down in [St. Petersburg] and again tonight -- after the first three or four outings of the season, he's really started to turn the corner," Farrell said on Friday. "The dependability, the strike-throwing is there, the breaking ball has been much more consistent to give him something to get right-handers off his fastball."

In describing his season, Miller could well have been summarizing his career to this point, laying out a philosophy that has served him well since he left the University of North Carolina as one of the hottest prospects in the country.

"I've had some ups and downs, just like always," Miller said on Saturday. "You want to ride the highs as long as you can and eliminate the lows, but I feel like I'm settling in pretty good and am ready to compete and help us win however I can.

"I think the only time we really get noticed is when we blow a game, so it's a little different," Miller said of life as a relief pitcher. "But it's a lot of fun to be on a team like this where we win a lot and you can contribute on any given night."

Miller was also able to laugh about narrowly avoiding being injured by a foul ball in the dugout on Friday. Teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia lined a ball that ricocheted off a padded wall and struck Miller in the forehead.

"I think it just caught me off guard more than anything," he said with a chuckle. "I'm going to have to start wearing a helmet in the dugout."

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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