Almost Miller Time




CLEVELAND—Adam Miller has been hyped as the Indians' next flame-throwing starter, a tall and lanky righthander from Texas in the mold of Nolan Ryan.
But with elbow and finger injuries having delayed his arrival in the majors the last three years, the Tribe brass has altered its plans with the organization's one-time projected ace.

Instead of leading a starting rotation, Miller looks like he will finally get a chance to make his major league debut this season—out of the Indians bullpen.

Despite his impressive minor league numbers as a starter when healthy, moving Miller to the bullpen will cut down the number of pitches and his innings, thus reducing the strain on his throwing arm and hand.

Now, if Miller makes it through spring training without any setbacks, there's an outside chance he could even make the squad out of camp. If not, it won't hurt to start the season at Triple-A Columbus until a spot opens in Cleveland's bullpen. Although Miller is entering his seventh professional season since being selected 31st overall in 2003, he's still just 24 years old.

And while the Tribe's recent free agent signing of veteran Kerry Wood gives the team a stopper for at least the next two years, Wood also has a long history of right arm trouble.

"I saw a 97 miles an hour fastball, an 89 miles an hour sinker," Tribe farm director Ross Atkins told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after seeing Miller pitch out of the bullpen in the Dominican League. "I saw the complete Adam Miller, and we have every reason to believe his finger problems won't reoccur."

But Miller has compiled just 100 innings over the past two seasons while battling the right middle finger injury that ultimately needed reconstructive surgery. Before that, it was elbow trouble in 2005 that sidelined him after 12 starts at high Class A Kinston.

In between the injury years are flashes of how dominant he can be.
Miller was a mere 19-year-old in 2004 when he made headlines for breaking 100 mph on scouts' radar guns during the Carolina League playoffs, combining to strike out 152 batters over 134 innings between low and high Class A.

Come 2006, he'd moved up to Double-A Akron for the first time, going 15-6 with a measly 2.75 ERA—including finishing strong with an 8-1 mark and minuscule 0.97 over his last 10 starts.

Starting or closing, Miller could do either in Cleveland—as long as he remains healthy.
 
SMOKE SIGNALS

• The Indians continue to stock up veteran players for the Triple-A team that will open its first season in Columbus as a Tribe affiliate. The Indians signed righthanders Jack Cassel and Matt Herges, offering the minor league free agents non-roster invitations to major league camp. Cassel, 28, appeared in 15 games over the last two years with the Padres. Herges, 38, owns a major league record of 40-34, 3.94 for seven teams over his 17-year career.

• Boston sent minor league outfielder Mickey Hall to Cleveland as the player-to-be-named to complete the Aug. 12 trade that landed veteran pitcher Paul Byrd in Boston. The 24-year-old Hall split time last season between Double-A Portland and high Class A Lancaster, and owns a .239/.341/.401 batting line over six professional seasons. Hall was originally a second-round pick by the Red Sox in the 2003 draft.