Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Miller Belongs In Toledo -- Despite The Temptation

Andrew Miller is tall. He's got more pitching raw skill in his pinky than many major league pitchers have in their entire cortisone-injected shoulders. His potential is endless, and scary -- for the rest of the American League. Oh yeah, and he's lefthanded.

There will be considerable focus on Miller as this spring training unfolds. Number one, there aren't too many spots on the Tigers' 25-man roster up for grabs, so the scribes and bloggers have to have something to wring their hands about. The reason for the focus is this: should Andrew Miller be on the plane with the Tigers when the team breaks camp and heads to chilly Michigan? Or should he be returned to Toledo, where he can start and be assured of innings?

It's the classic baseball question that is asked in February and March. Should big league team keep "the kid", or leave him behind for more seasoning?

Miller, the highly-touted first-round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina, debuted with the Tigers down the stretch last year, but was left off the postseason roster. But still, he got into a few games in September, which probably didn't do him any harm at all.

I tend to err on the side of "let the kid play, and play a lot" in these situations. And I see no reason to divert from that in Miller's case. In Detroit, he's most likely to be nothing more than a lefty situational guy who pitches twice or three times a week, at best. Or he may be regulated to the baseball equivalent of "garbage time", a.k.a. long relief.

Send Mr. Miller to Toledo, I say, and put him in the starting rotation. He's destined to be a starter anyway; may as well get him used to pitching every fifth day.

Ahh, but when to bring him to the big club, ultimately? There don't appear to be any spots in the rotation readily available. The Tigers are cursed with the good fortune of having five dependable starters -- assuming Mike Maroth is healthy. And aside from Kenny Rogers, the starters are still young and, we hope, not going anywhere soon.

Answer: no rush, for the reasons indicated in the previous paragraph. There's nothing that says Miller has to be a Tiger by "x" date. In fact, that's where the team has gone wrong in the past, mainly because there wasn't much talent at the big league level, so prospects were rushed to the majors.

Just let him develop, and if he's in Detroit for a September call-up, fine. If he's in the rotation sometime in 2008, that's fine, too. You can't, after all, keep him as a minor leaguer forever. He's too good.

But here's hoping Jim Leyland exercises his usually good judgement and leaves Andrew Miller behind when it's time to pack up the balls and bats and gloves and fly north.


Blogger Ozz said...

I think most fans and observers expect that he'll start the season in the minors. I think you might be the first I've read who has suggested Toledo.

Whether it's Toledo, Erie or Lakeland, it's just nice to know that a hot prospect doesn't have to be rushed to the bigs (like Bonderman was in his debut season; I'd even say Weaver was rushed up too).

3:46 AM  

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