See also: Previous Q&A with Philip Hughes
See also: Prospect Q&A archive
Adam Miller is back on track. After pitching in only 15 games last year due to a strained ligament in his pitching elbow, the 21-year-old righthander proved he was healthy again by going 15-6, 2.75 for Akron and being named the 2006 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.
A supplemental first-round pick in 2003 out of McKinney High in Texas, the top-rated prospect in the Indians organization had 157 strikeouts in 154 regular-season innings for the Aeros while holding hitters to a .226 average. Miller made two starts in the Eastern League playoffs, earning a win versus Altoona and losing to Portland–who went on to wrap up the EL title Sunday with an 8-5 win over Akron.
Baseball America: You started to get on a roll around midseason. What was the key to that?
Adam Miller: It was a combination of things. I added a two-seamer that I’m throwing to lefties, and I developed a better feel for my changeup. I also started attacking hitters more and keeping the ball down more consistently. Earlier in the year I was up too much with my pitches, which is what usually gets me in trouble.
BA: Why did you add that two-seamer to your repertoire, and how are you using it?
AM: My pitching coach, Scott Radinsky, suggested it as something I could use to give hitters a different look. They’ll be gearing up for my 4-seamer, which is 94-95 (mph), and they’ll get 89-91 instead. I’ve been getting lefties to roll over on it, and it puts another pitch in the back of guys’ minds when they’re hitting against me.
BA: You hit 101 in the Carolina League playoffs two years ago. What did you top out at this year, and how important is velocity to your game?
AM: I’ve hit 98 a few times. I sit anywhere between 94 and 98, and like I said, now I have the two-seamer that’s closer to 90. Speed helps, but I feel I could be successful with less velocity, too. 90-94 is okay if you’re mixing it up with offspeed pitches, and I’m doing that better this year.
BA: How much confidence do you have in your changeup, and are you throwing it primarily to lefthanded hitters?
AM: I’ve mostly used it against lefties, but lately I’ve been fitting it in against righties a little more. Of course, it’s important to pick your spots, because in certain situations you don’t want to get beat with your third-best pitch. But I’ve definitely started believing in it more. While I used to kind of baby it, trying to make it slow, now I just let it go and allow it to do its thing. I’m not just pushing it up there.
BA: You held lefthanders to a .198 average this year. Was that mostly because of the emerging pitches?
AM: That’s part of it, but I also got back to attacking hitters down-and-in with my slider. I’ve also been going with a back-door slider, and having success with that.
BA: It sounds like your slider returned as a huge pitch for you this year.
AM: It has. Last year, coming off the injury, my command of it was down, but it’s pretty much back to where it was. I’d say the majority of my K’s have been coming with it, and next to my fastball it’s my best pitch.
BA: You missed time with an elbow injury last year. How has that affected your career and your overall outlook?
AM: It set me back a little, but I’m healthy now so I don’t think it was that big of a thing. In some ways it’s probably helped, because I’ve learned that you don’t have to throw as hard to succeed. Confidence and trust are a big part of pitching, and I have that with my offspeed pitches now.
BA: Now that the season is coming to an end, what will you be doing to occupy your time?
AM: Baseball-wise, I’ll be off until the winter development meetings in January, so I’ll be concentrating on the fantasy football league we started in the clubhouse recently. We’re having a lot of fun with that, including some pretty good trash talk.
BA: Any Cowboys on your team?
AM: I have T.O. Eli Manning is my quarterback.
BA: A Texas guy like you has a New York Giant at quarterback?
AM: Yeah, I don’t really trust Drew Bledsoe. Plus, while I like the Cowboys, I’m more of a Buccaneers fan, anyway.
BA: Are you planning to win the league?
AM: Absolutely! (Indians righthander) Daniel Denham thinks he knows a lot about football and is going to win, but no way . . . I’m taking it all.