Andrew Miller has been lurking in the Minor Leagues all season for the Red Sox, trying to rediscover the ability that led to such a successful career at North Carolina, where he was teammates with fellow Sox pitcher Daniel Bard.
And according to several reports, Miller will be re-united with Bard on Monday, when he’s activated to pitch against the Padres – not a bad way to break back into the Majors.
All year in Pawtucket, the strong left-hander – who has sported an incredible mustache in the past, by the way – has had a ton of life on his fastball, though command has always been his issue.
He’s had no problem getting outs all season, but his walks were out of hand at one point. Miller has put it all together the past few weeks though, walking just three batters over his last 25 1/3 innings.
This season in Triple-A, Miller has struck out 61 batters and walked 35 in 66 2/3 innings, with a 2.47 ERA.
The initial plan will be to stretch the pitching staff into a six-man rotation, with John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Miller rotating in the final two spots. But if Miller can have success, Wakefield will likely be eased back into a relief role.
So what’s this mean for your fantasy teams? Well, Miller definitely deserves a chance. With strikeout numbers that high, if he can harness his command, there’s no reason he can’t be successful. The Red Sox have done that with pitchers before (ahem, Rich Hill, who was once pulled by Lou Piniella in the first inning after walking four straight batters), and Miller's recent success with the strike zone is definitely encouraging. If he pitches well, he’ll stick around, and he could win a handful of ball-games with a great lineup behind him.
Ryan Raburn will at least get a chance to play through his season-long slump, as he’s been playing nearly every day at second base since the Tigers traded Scott Sizemore to the Athletics. And there’s likely a reason for that: I can’t say for certain, but I don’t think Jim Leyland saw much in the Tigers’ prospect and had enough of him on his team. Rather than demote him again (he might have been out of options anyway, I’m not sure if he had any left), Detroit said pack your bags and head to Oakland.
Leyland has always had a lot of faith in Raburn, but he knows success comes in bunches with the streaky hitter. He’s struck out 68 times to 8 walks this season, hitting .203 in 192 at-bats. When I talked to Raburn in May, he said he usually doesn’t start feeling it till mid-June. Well, yesterday marked the mid-way point for the month, and you can bet Raburn isn’t going to hit .203 all season.
He’s probably available in your league right now, and his second base eligibility is a big plus. It might be the perfect time to grab him.
Speaking of the Tigers, Magglio Ordonez is back and his ankle fully healed, allowing him to push off when he swings, something that he couldn’t do earlier in the season, at least according to their head trainer. And though the 37-year-old outfielder has had his ability questioned, his teammates seem to think he’s got plenty left in the tank, and I don’t see any reason to disagree with them.
He was plugged into the sixth spot in the order when he returned from the DL, and while some view it as a negative thing, as if Leyland doesn’t trust Ordonez in his customary No. 3 spot, I actually think it’s the right move. Brennan Boesch has been hitting the heck out of the ball lately. The Tigers haven’t really had a true No. 3 hitter this season, but the way Boesch has been swinging the bat, there’s no way you can take him out of that spot.
And, moving Magglio to sixth allows the pressure to be off while he tries to find his timing. He was healthy a few days before being activated, but the club wanted him to take some at-bats in Triple-A and let him make the decision when he was ready. Ordonez has been an oft-forgotten man in fantasy baseball, given his ability to seemingly disappear for weeks at a time. But each time he turns invisible, he always finds a way to come back into the spotlight, with his .300-plus batting average and RBIs to boot. His time is coming where he’ll no longer be productive, but I don’t think we’re there yet, and he’s certainly worth a shot.
UPDATE: Thanks to Bodhizefa who pointed out Miller has never had Tommy John surgery, as that was edited from the story. I was having a discussion with a friend in the press box last week and, for some odd reason, we were both under the assumption that he did. Always double check your facts, Exhibit A. Sorry all, thanks Bodhizefa.
As for Miller, the only injuries he's ever sustained, as far as I can see, is an oblique in 2009, knee tendinitis in 2008, and a thigh strain in 2007. But as with the Red Sox pitching staff this season, no man is safe!