Dedication Pays Off For Red Sox' Miller

BOSTON—Four years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine Ryne Miller in professional baseball, let alone with a vision of a major league pitching future.

Miller had quit baseball after his junior year of high school to focus on a football career. Roughly three years after he'd last played baseball, Miller enrolled at Weatherford (Texas) JC in 2006 and walked onto the baseball team before earning a scholarship for the spring semester. In the summer of 2007, he pitched in the Texas Collegiate League and made the TCL all-star team. 

In that game, Miller opened eyes. He had never exceeded 91 mph, but that day, he touched 96 mph. Evaluators noticed, including Red Sox area scout Jim Robinson. The next day, the Sox signed the undrafted free agent to a $47,500 bonus. 

Miller had a strong debut in 2007, with a 2.08 ERA in 11 appearances totaling 17 innings. But he got woefully out of shape and reported to spring training in 2008 at more than 260 pounds. His performance at low Class A Greenville in 2008 was unimpressive, as he struggled to a 5.68 ERA in 51 innings.

That offseason, Miller decided that he needed to commit to his craft. 

"I just concentrated everything on baseball," Miller said. "I wasn't serious about baseball at all. I said, 'If you want to make this your career, you've got to dedicate.' "

He hired a personal trainer, and by spring training in 2009, he was down to 215 pounds. To the Sox, the decrease in weight was directly related to an increased ability to repeat his delivery, and hence, improved command and overall performance on the mound. 

Miller started 2009 in high Class A Salem, going 8-2, 2.77, striking out 59 and walking 18 in 55 innings. Then, he was promoted to Double-A Portland, where Miller had a 2.28 ERA in 11 relief appearances. Based on his effectiveness and his three-pitch arsenal (low-90s fastball, potentially plus curveball, work-in-progress changeup), the Sox gave him a season-ending trial in the rotation and will develop him as a starter to open 2010. 

Sox Yarns

• Shortstop Jose Iglesias, who defected from Cuba in 2008, participated in the club's January rookie development program in Boston. While there, he saw snow for the first time. 

• Righthander Casey Kelly, who turned down a football scholarship at Tennessee to sign with the Sox, took note of head coach Lane Kiffin's departure. "I was joking around with my dad, I guess we did make the right decision about not playing at Tennessee," he said.