Prospect Q&A: Andrew Miller





See also: Prospect Q&A Archive


Andrew Miller isn’t on Detroit’s postseason roster, but the 21-year-old lefthander has a front row seat to this year’s fall classic just months after helping pitch North Carolina to the finals of the College World Series.
 
The sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, Miller received a $3.55-million-dollar bonus and a major league contract after going 13-2, 2.48 and being named the 2006 Baseball America College Player of the Year.
 
Miller made his major league debut for the Tigers on August 30 after appearing in just three games with class high A Lakeland. Overall, the 6’7” native of Gainesville appeared in 8 games for the American League champions, losing his only decision while allowing 7 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

Baseball America: You're in St. Louis, watching your new team, the Detroit Tigers, play the Cardinals in the World Series. How would you describe what you're experiencing?
 
Andrew Miller: It’s neat. I’m in the dugout with the team, so I have the best possible seat in the house for someone who’s not playing. I’m mostly just trying to blend in, but it’s still a great first-hand experience to be here.   
 
BA: You’re with guys like Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya. Your former teammate at North Carolina, Daniel Bard, also brings some serious heat. 
 
AM: Man, it’s great to be around guys like that. Verlander really gets it up there, but I’ve never seen anyone throw like Zumaya. But not many guys can throw like Daniel, either. And he doesn’t muscle it up there. He just throws, and it jumps out of his hand.
 
BA: How important is velocity to your game?
 
AM: Velocity is all good and well, but movement gets guys out. And your secondary pitches are just as big. Zumaya and Verlander can throw the ball by people, but they also have great curves. (Chris) Carpenter wasn’t throwing much more than 90 last night, but he was dominating us because he was mixing his pitches and locating.   
 
BA: How many different pitches are you throwing right now?
 
AM: I have three fastballs: a 2-seamer, a 4-seamer, and a cutter. I have my slider, and I’m working on developing a better change because it’s a pitch you need in pro ball. I didn’t throw a single one in college this year. Right now it’s pretty much a run of the mill circle, which seems like the best grip for me because my hands aren’t all that large.   
 
BA: How would you describe your slider?
 
AM: It’s essentially a curve from a lower arm-angle. You could actually say it’s more of a slurve, because it’s bigger than a slider. I don’t always throw it the same, though. Some are more sweeping, while others are tighter, and there’s as much as a six or seven miles an hour difference in the speed. For the catcher’s sake, I should almost call it two pitches.
 
BA: What were your expectations going into the draft?
 
AM: An hour before, I thought maybe I’d fall all the way to 25 or 26. It’s a crapshoot the way it works, so I wasn’t sure where I’d go. To be honest, I didn’t even know the Tigers were all that interested. That’s how they operate. They try to stay away from all the pre-draft banter, so it was a little surprising when they took me. But the more I learned about the organization, the happier I was. They really have things going in the right direction, and there’s definitely a commitment to young pitching. 
 
BA: Your contract stipulated that you would be called up to the big league club this year. Why was that important to you?
 
AM: It wasn’t something that I brought up during negotiations . . . It wasn’t actually my idea. Regardless, I was going to be on the 40-man, so it wouldn’t be costing the team anything per se. Of course, it was great that they put it in there, because I’ve been learning so much. That doesn’t mean I’m content just to be here, though. I want to prove that I belong and be here for a long time.    
 
BA: You made eight appearances after being called up to Detroit. What is the biggest thing you learned in those games?
 
AM: That I can get big league hitters out, but I have to throw strikes to do it. People will tell you that you have to trust your stuff, but that’s easier to say than do, especially when you’re facing big league hitters for the first time. But it’s amazing what I learned in 9 or 10 innings. I think I really accelerated my development by being here.
 
BA: How would you describe your big league debut?
 
AM: Probably my best outing, and something I’ll never forget. I think it took a couple of days to hit me that I had just been on the mound against the Yankees, and that I had broken Jeter’s bat.     
 
BA: I've heard that you love to throw, and do a lot of long-tossing to build up arm-strength. What is your thought-process behind that?
 
AM:  My arm just feels good when I’m throwing a lot. It’s sort of the Leo Mazzone philosophy of “the more you throw, the stronger you’ll be.” It makes sense. If your arm feels good, it’s kind of like: why wouldn’t you throw?  
 
BA: I understand that you enjoy golfing. How would you compare golf to pitching?
 
AM: Let’s see . . . When you’re pitching, you’re facing an opponent, while in golf you’re battling the course. You need to think a stroke or two ahead, which is what you’re doing as a pitcher. Playing the ball to a certain side of the fairway, to set up your next shot, is kind of like setting up a hitter. If you swing too hard, you’re not going to have as much control. You need to stay in rhythm. I’ve never thought about it before, but there are definitely some analogies.     
 
BA: Here’s a bit of a curveball: What are your mustache plans for the future?
 
AM: Oh, man. A bunch of us (at UNC) grew them this year, but most of our girlfriends made us shave them off. Unless they really come back into style someday . . . that was enough for a lifetime. I guess it can be fun to go out and embarrass yourself every day, but never again.