With much less fanfare than his previous two stops, the Andrew Miller era began in Boston Monday night. Miller, a former number one draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, taken ahead of Tim Lincecum and traded for Miguel Cabrera, has had a hard time living up to expectations. Now with his third MLB team, and only getting the call due to an opt-out in his contract, Miller was poised to prove that his last four AAA starts were the beginning of a new, successful run. Welcoming a weak Padres lineup to Fenway, Miller had a golden opportunity to show that he belongs in the rotation full time. However, 89 pitches and 5 2/3 innings later, we don't really know anymore about him than we did at 7:00pm.
The book on Miller has always been a world of talent, but lack of command. Pitching just 32 2/3 innings last year for the Florida Marlins, he managed to walk an obscene 26 batters, which averages out to 7.96 walks per nine innings. Miller then followed that up by walking 35 batters in only 65 2/3 innings for AAA Pawtucket this season. At this point it would be fair to start referring to him as the Miller Man March. Although not awful, Miller did walk 3 in his debut last night marking an improvement from his overall numbers, yet still a number you'd like to see lowered.
There were some positives to take out of Monday's start. Miller featured a mid 90's fastball in the early innings, a solid changeup, and at times a nasty curveball. All three pitches capable of being an out pitch, especially the curveball, which was responsible for the bulk of his six strikeouts. Miller also showed good composure in working around a leadoff triple in the fourth inning, and managed 17 first pitch strikes to his 26 batters, while compiling a 65% strike rate for the night. During the first five innings, Miller was economical with his pitches, having only one inning over 15 pitches while managing to shut out the Padres.
The fact that all of the damage done against Miller came in the 6th inning should not be a surprise. In 12 starts for Pawtucket, he averaged only a shade over 5 innings per game. Further proof that he may have been tiring was the pitch that Orlando Hudson lost in the Monster seats, a 91mph fastball up and on the inner half. Miller, who touched as high as 96 mph early on, had clearly lost velocity at this point. It is unclear whether the Sox had any pitch restrictions on him this season, although that may be one reason for his lack of stamina.
Overall it was a decent start, though falling short of qualifying as a quality start. However, the tools and ability were once again on display, as they always are with Miller, but its just a matter of putting it all together and proving that he can be consistent. The Pittsburgh Pirates are the next match-up for Miller. While the Pirates have improved over past years, it should be another opportunity for Miller to catch a struggling offense and help gain some confidence as he hopes to build a case for sticking around once Buchholz returns in two weeks. The signing of Miller was a low risk, extremely high-reward move for the Red Sox, one that could end up as the pitching equivalent of the David Ortiz signing in 2003 should he finally realize his full potential.
**Update: With Beckett getting bumped due to illness Miller's next start will be Tuesday against Philly. A much more interesting challenge for him **