Miller recently rejoined Class AAA Buffalo after spending much of April in extended spring training in Winter Haven, Fla. He still hasn't recovered all his arm strength from last year, when he tore a ligament in his right middle finger and injured his right elbow. A blister on the same finger caused him to miss a great deal of spring training this year.While it is possible that Miller returns to the mid/high 90s form of his pre-injury days, Torey Lovullo however, asserted that it is probably unreasonable to think that Miller will be the pitcher of old. Hoynes does, however, bring up an interesting comment regarding Miller to the bullpen or rotation if healthy.
At full strength, Miller throws between 94 mph and 100 mph. He could help the Tribe in the pen or rotation if he can stay healthy.
From what I have seen and recorded to date, Miller looks as though his confidence is rising, however his stamina and stuff is still slightly lacking. He has made hitters look foolish on occasion, but he is still lack that killer instinct that a pitcher with his ability needs. Think Jake Peavy over Daniel (or closer to home, Fernando) Cabrera. That, I'm going to throw strikes and you can't hit 'em mentality.
With Miller's start having been rained out yesterday, he will take the bump in the first of a double header. With Miller's arm strength building, and the game being shortened due to IL rules that limit doubleheader games to 7 innings, Miller is looking for his first victory of 2008, that will hopefully not be spoiled by the bullpen.
One thing that I would really like to see in Miller's start this afternoon, is more control of the plate. Having walked 10% of the batters he has faced, Miller has not done himself any favors, although this is not a terrible figure, consider that in 2007 Fausto Carmona sat just inside the top 30 with a 6.9%.
I will be keeping my eye on the game and giving some more feedback as Miller pitches. It is currently cool sitting in the low 50s. The sun is shining and the forecast is calling for a bright afternoon with some winds blowing from the west. Right handed hitters may see some of the balls off their bats fly a little bit longer because of that and we'll keep it in mind for when Miller is on the mound.
Update - 05/04/08 - 1:10 PM EST
Jerry Owens took the first ball for a called ball, took the next pitch for a strike, fouled the next pitch off and then nubbed a tough pitch to second.
Jason Bourgeois rolled an easy roller to Josh Barfield who didn't take his time and produced an error. This is how a pitch count gets high.
Larry Wise worked his way into a hitters count and lined one the opposite way to left fielder Ben Francisco.
Miller is looking strong against Brad Eldred. He made him look foolish on the first pitch of the at bat. Miller finished him off with a nice inside fastball.
Jeff Liefer is at the plate and starts off behind fouling off the first pitch. The second pitch Miller pounded low and inside. With pitch three Miller gets Liefer to swing at a pitch out of the zone.
After 1 Inning, Miller has 2 strikeouts, 1 hit and has thrown 21 pitches, 15 for strikes. He looks sharp out there and is rolling.
Update - 05/04/08 - 1:40PM EST
Miller will take the hill in the 2nd inning with a 4-0 lead. The Bisons put together a nice inning, but did benefit from some luck. The wind, as previously mentioned, does appear to be adding some issues to the balls. Bisons announcers Ben Wagner also mentioned that the pitches were worried about balking. Lets hope that doesn't play a role this inning.
Chris Getz comes to the plate to start the inning and grounds out to first on a 1 and 1 pitch.
Ex-Bison Mike Rouse comes to the plate and whiffs on a slider, then grounds out to second base. Miller looks sharp. He is staying in the zone and attacking the hitters.
Ball one, high and inside to Paul Phillips followed by a fastball strike. Working ahead, Miller tried to get Phillips to chase a ball low and away. Phillips was fortunate to push one the opposite way on a nice low and away pitch by Miller. That should have been an out.
Fernando Cortez takes ball one in a pitch Miller forget to follow through on. Miller seems to be trying to get a little too cute, not trusting his stuff. Cortez singles up the middle on a hitters count.
Jerry Owens returns to the plate and takes the first pitch outside for a ball. In a 2-1 count, Owens grounded out to first. This was essentially the same ball that Phillips hit for a single. I love Minor League Ball!
Miller didn't have the same control in this inning allowing 2 hits without recording a strikeout. Miller threw 11 of 19 pitches for strikes.
Ben Wagner mentions that Miller is again on a pitch count, suggesting he will be held to under 100 pitches again.
Update - 05/04/08 - 1:58 PM EST
Still leading 4-0, Miller looks for a quick inning to put him on pace to claim a victory.
Bourgeois is one of only 3 right handed hitters Miller will face today and allows a 1-1 single on a tough pitch low and outside (being called a 'slider without bite'). It helped that Bisons third basemen Arron Herr was cheating in for a bunt.
Larry Wise flared one to left field that was boosted by the wind keeping it out of reach from Ben Francisco.
With nobody out, Eldred is up and singles to right. A pair is knocked in on a first pitch that was low and away. A great throw and an even better hit. Miller allows his first two runs of the season.
Jeff Liefer (image left) is at the plate and Miller is struggling to hit the strike zone. Liefer pulls one between the first and second in a play that would have been made had there not been a runner on first.
Getz takes the first pitch for a ball and then whiffs on an inside fastball. Getting the count back in Miller's favor, he throws another one low and inside. The lefties seem to be having a tough time with that pitch. Miller flares one to Barfield for a force out at second.
With runner's on first and third, Mike Rouse comes to the plate. First pitch comes in for a called strike. As does the second. Miller throws the 4th fastball of the at bat high and outside. Srikeout #3.
Catcher Paul Phillips takes a called strike on the outside edge. He lays off the second pitch in the same place for a ball. He then weakly pulls the third pitch to shallow left field.
Fernando Cortez takes the first pitch for a ball. Miller has definitely taken a step back in this inning and cannot catch a break (or a corner). Going back inside (where he seems more comfortable), Miller gets Cortez to foul one off. He follows that with a sharp slider for a called strike. A soft roller to first ends the inning for Miller, but his final line is not pretty.
It took Miller 28 pitches to get through this inning, 19 went for strikes. Keep in mind however, that a ball hit in play counts as a strike. Miller was much shakier then the 68% of strikes represents. 5 hits and 3 runs allowed, as well as racking up a strikeout.
The good news, only one hit went for an extra base.
Update - 05/04/08 - 2:19 PM EST
The Bisons go down in order for the first time this game. Charlotte Knights pitcher Jack Egbert seems to be getting stronger while Miller has been showing signs of rust.
Speaking with Bisons Manager Torey Lovullo reports that Miller will be throwing some other pitches, not relying so heavily on the fastball. What fastballs he will throw, Lovullo says will be low.
Jerry Owens is at the plate first and takes two or three pitches for strikes, all three have been low. The forth pitch was a called strike cutter. Owens didn't lift the bat off his shoulder.
Bourgeois flares a broken bat ball into foul ground on the first base side. That should have been an out. Second pitch went for a called strike which looked like a slider. Bourgeois pulls a hard one foul and then fists one to short.
Wise (image right) is two for two and is fortunate I'm not at the game. The second pitch was a beautiful inside fastball. In a hitters count, Wise pulled an inside fastball for a double.
Eldred takes the first two pitches inside for balls. He has a 3-0 count and is not the type who would hesitate to swing at a 'get em over' fastball. But Miller has battled back and gotten the count full. Finishing off Eldred would be great for Miller here. Another foul and I am assuming Miller will not come out for the 5th inning. Miller walks Eldred on a very close pitch inside.
Liefer should not be on a minor league team. He fouled off the first two pitches (action in the bullpen) both of which seemed out of the zone. Another three fouls and the count is still at 1-2. Liefer lines one DIRECTLY at Sandoval that bounces into left field for a single scoring the forth run of the game for the Knights.
Miller reaches 96 pitches and leaves the game. He threw 62 pitches for strikes and finishes with a line of:
3.2 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 1 BB and 4 K.
The biggest positives that can be taken from this are that Miller looked outstanding in the first inning. Second to that, is the fact that Miller allowed only two extra base hits.
Not getting in front of hitters hurt Miller. Being unable to finish off hitters also hurt the youngster. I can't imagine Miller will be too happy about this game.