Tag:Andrew Miller
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:00 am

3 to Watch: The White Sox crisis edition

If the White Sox somehow find their way back into the race in the American League Central, will Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams stop fighting long enough to enjoy it?

Should they?

Sometimes it feels like the White Sox only play well when they're in crisis. Sure enough, they've won seven of their last 10, during a stretch that included Guillen's strange demand for a contract extension and also, according to sources, a nasty pregame confrontation between Williams and one of Guillen's coaches.

Sometimes it seems that if things get ugly enough off the field, the White Sox respond by avoiding ugly play on the field.

The Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, which means they probably need to win at least five of the six remaining head-to-head meetings to have any chance at a miracle run.

The White Sox get their first chance this weekend in Detroit, with three meetings Sept. 12-14 in Chicago. Neither team's schedule is particularly taxing otherwise, which is better news for the Tigers, as the team holding a significant lead.

If there were close races elsewhere, we'd barely acknowledge Tigers-White Sox. But five of the eight playoff spots are basically wrapped up, and baseball is in real danger of a September without drama.

If you want a pennant race, root for the second-place Giants this weekend against the first-place Diamondbacks, who lead San Francisco by six games. And if you like your drama on and off the field, root for the White Sox against the Tigers.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The next seven days might be the most crucial remaining stretch in the American League West, even though the first-place Rangers and second-place Angels will be on opposite coasts. The Rangers have six games at Boston and at Tampa Bay, which could give the Angels (six home games against the Twins and Mariners) a chance to eat into their 3 1/2-game deficit. It begins for Texas with Rangers at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. It could also be an interesting night for the Red Sox, who are starting to believe that Andrew Miller could help them in some role in the playoffs. Miller, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut out the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings last week in Texas.

2. The Diamondbacks have won nine in a row, and as everyone in Arizona no doubt knows by now, club president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers vowed to shave their heads if the team ever won 10 straight. That could happen Friday night, when Joe Saunders faces Matt Cain. But the most interesting pitching matchup of the weekend comes a day later, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Ian Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate this year, faces Tim Lincecum, a Cy candidate every year.

3. The presence of Justin Verlander in the Tiger rotation makes it unlikely they'll lose enough games to blow a 5 1/2-game lead. But if the Tigers are to truly be dangerous in the playoffs, they'd likely need Max Scherzer to find some consistency, as well. Scherzer has a 1.64 ERA in three starts this year against the White Sox, but he gave up seven runs in three innings Monday night against the Royals. Scherzer faces Mark Buehrle in White Sox at Tigers, Sunday night (8:09 ET) at Comerica Park.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 7:46 pm

3 to Watch: The Miller and Maybin edition

Andrew Miller was supposed to be an ace. Cameron Maybin was supposed to be a star.

When the Marlins got Miller and Maybin in the December 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade, everyone in baseball said they'd done well. Everyone with the Tigers said they had done well.

We all know now that it didn't work out that way. We all know now that Miller still hasn't become an ace, and Maybin still hasn't become a star.

And we all know now that not even a year after they fired the manager who was supposed to benefit from that Miller-Maybin deal, the Marlins now find themselves in search of yet another manager.

Meanwhile, Miller and Maybin find themselves at Fenway Park.

Monday night, Miller will make his first start for the Red Sox, the latest team trying to unlock what still seems like enormous potential. He'll face the Padres, the latest team hoping Maybin's power and speed will translate to baseball wins.

This Padres-Red Sox series would be fascinating regardless, with Adrian Gonzalez going up against the hometown team that traded him away, and Anthony Rizzo facing the team that had to include him in that trade for Gonzalez. And with Dave Roberts, the unsung hero of those 2004 Red Sox, returning to Fenway as a Padres coach.

But we know about Roberts and we know about Gonzalez, and we think we know about Rizzo.

We're still trying to figure out Miller, who is either one of those late-developing tall left-handers or one of those hard throwers who never make it. He's getting his chance now with the Red Sox, because Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list and because the Sox didn't want to lose Miller, who had an opt-out in the contract he signed to go to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Miller was 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games for the PawSox, and in his last start he struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings, while allowing just one run.

We're still trying to figure out Maybin, too. His numbers this year with the Padres (.254/.316/.404) are decent, but by no means great. One thing I do know: When I saw Maybin last month, he was smiling more than he had in the last two years with the Marlins.

Maybin smiled wide when I mentioned a spring training conversation I had with Miller, who said the two have remained close friends.

They've both been through a lot and they've stayed close, communicating mostly by text message.

This week, they'll meet again.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Jack McKeon was 42 years old when he managed his first major-league game, with the 1973 Royals. Now he's 80, and there's a real chance he'll be back in the dugout, as the interim replacement for Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. If McKeon takes over for Angels at Marlins, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium, he'll be trying to keep the Marlins from equaling a team record with an 11th straight loss (they lost 11 straight twice in 1998, the year of the fire sale). It won't be easy, not with Jered Weaver starting for the Angels. Weaver last lost on May 18 (the Marlins were 24-17 back then), and he has a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.

2. Miller appeared in 58 games over three seasons with the Marlins, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA. He lost his last five starts in 2010, with a 12.74 ERA and an incredible 52 baserunners in 17 2/3 innings. It'd be hard to do that against the weak-hitting San Diego team he'll face in Padres at Red Sox, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Then again, maybe Gonzalez (.481 batting average in his last 12 home games) will tell his old buddies how much fun it is to hit at Fenway.

3. Bob Melvin began this season working for the Mets, then went to work for the Diamondbacks, before going to Oakland to try to rescue the A's. Melvin helped the Diamondbacks over the weekend, when his A's swept the Giants to help Arizona stay close in the National League West. Now Melvin comes to New York to see his other former employers, in A's at Mets, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. The Mets interviewed Melvin when they were looking for a manager last fall, but Terry Collins has given them no reason to regret their choice. They haven't regretted putting Dillon Gee in their rotation, either. Gee (who starts Tuesday) is 7-0, the longest winning streak by a rookie to open a season since Weaver started 9-0 with the 2006 Angels.

Posted on: March 20, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 2:45 pm

Andrew Miller: Still a prospect at 25?

FORT MYERS, Fla. –- When he was 21, Andrew Miller was already in the big leagues.

Heck, at 21, Andrew Miller was nearly pitching in a World Series.

Four and a half years later, he still hasn’t made it through a full big-league season. As colleague Scott Miller wrote the other day about Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin, Miller is “trapped between Potential and Baseball Nomad.”

Maybin and Miller are forever linked, as the two key players the Tigers traded to Florida for Miguel Cabrera, and also as two big-time prospects who never made it big with the Marlins.

And just as Maybin may have found a welcoming team this spring with the Padres, Miller may have landed at the right place at the right time with the Red Sox.

Scouts following Boston have been impressed with Miller all spring, to the point where some of them believe that he would be the team’s best option as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. The Sox haven’t made that decision yet, but as of now, Miller remains in big-league camp competing for a job.

“He’s really exciting,” manager Terry Francona said Sunday. “We’re his third team, and sometimes guys just seem to get it. He certainly has a special arm.”

That arm has allowed Miller to throw in the mid-90s, and when you put it together with Miller’s size (he’s 6-7), it always excites scouts. But inconsistent mechanics and command have kept Miller from having big-time success.

Sure enough, when Francona brought Miller into Sunday's spring game against the Cardinals to face the left-handed hitting Colby Rasmus, Miller walked him on five pitches. Later in the inning, he issued a bases-loaded walk, and couldn't finish the inning.

In 79 big-league appearances (54 of them starts), he has a 5.84 ERA and more than five walks for every nine innings pitched.

Before Sunday, Miller had two walks in 7 2/3 innings this spring. The Red Sox are still trying to decide whether he can show enough command to be trusted in the bullpen, and Sunday's outing certainly won't help.

“I don’t think I’ve reached my potential in the big leagues,” Miller said. “If my path takes me to the bullpen, that’s fine. I’m not stupid. I can look at the roster.”

In other words, while Boston’s rotation is set, the bullpen isn’t.

While Miller and Maybin have had similar careers, there are differences. While Maybin expressed some disappointment in the Marlins’ lack of patience, Miller had no such complaints.

“They gave me a bunch of opportunities,” he said. “I was definitely in a different situation than Cameron. Cameron spent more time in Triple-A. They gave me plenty of opportunities.”

Miller believes he’ll fulfill the potential that so many have seen in him. He thinks Maybin will, too.

“I still stand by what I’ve said, that I think one day he’s going to be pretty special,” Miller said. “Maybe [moving on from the Marlins] was a good thing for both of us.”

Posted on: August 15, 2010 8:56 pm

3 to watch: The Deadline Day edition

If you care even a little bit about the baseball draft, then you'll hear the words "above slot" plenty in the hours leading up to Monday night's midnight signing deadline. As in, "Team A beat the deadline by agreeing to sign their first-round draft pick by going above slot on the bonus."

What it means is fairly simple: While baseball doesn't have an official slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, it has in recent years tried to institute an unofficial system. Since it's unofficial, the smart teams (or smart owners, anyway) have more or less ignored it, and thus benefitted by signing better players than they should have gotten, based on where they were drafting.

And here's why you should care:

Cliff Lee vs. David Price, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that's why. Two of the leading candidates for the American League Cy Young Award, two of the best teams in baseball, and two teams who wouldn't have those pitchers if they hadn't gone "above slot."

The Rays drafted Price first overall in 2007. Baseball had designated a $3.6 million bonus for that slot, according to research by Baseball America . To sign Price, the Rays had to give him a six-year major-league contract, including a $5.6 million bonus.

And Lee? The Rangers were able to trade for him only because they could offer Justin Smoak to the Mariners. The Rangers paid Smoak a $3.5 million bonus in 2008, well above the $1.99 slot figure recommended by baseball (again, according to Baseball America ).

It's the same thing the Tigers did to acquire Miguel Cabrera, who might have been the American League's Most Valuable Player this year if his team hadn't fallen apart around him. The Tigers got Cabrera only because they went above slot to sign Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, who became the two key pieces in the trade with the Marlins.

According to Baseball America , of the 15 first-round signings that had been announced by early Sunday evening, only three were above slot (and none of the three were far above slot). But the strong assumption is that most of the remaining 17 first-rounders will sign by the deadline, and that all that do sign at the last minute will get more than what baseball recommends.

The most interesting case, of course, involves top pick Bryce Harper, whose contract with the Nationals -- if he agrees to one -- will be for much more than the $4 million slot recommendation.

You don't need to understand all the details to know that you want your favorite team to buck the system. A partial list of above-slot signings from the last three years includes not just Price and Smoak, but also all these guys whose names you might recognize (thanks to Baseball America for help with the research):

Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Gordon Beckham and Madison Bumgarner, among others. Go back a few more years, and you can add in Mark Teixeira and Jon Lester, among others.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Lee vs. Price could be a Game 1 playoff matchup, and not just the matchup in Rangers at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field , in the first of a three-game series. The Rangers just got done playing the other two top teams in the American League East, splitting two games with the Yankees and winning two of the three from the Red Sox. We've long contended that the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are the three best teams in the league, and maybe in all of baseball. The Rangers are in the process of proving they belong in that group, too.

2. Johnny Damon plays at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since the World Series, and Austin Jackson plays there for the first time ever. If the Yankees didn't have baseball's best record (and if the Tigers hadn't slipped badly out of the race in the American League Central), the homecoming would bring on massive second-guessing of the Yankees' offseason strategy. Curtis Granderson, who was traded for Jackson and basically brought in to take over for Damon, is having a poor season (his OPS ranks 28th among the 33 major-league outfielders with 350 or more plate appearances). While Damon, Jackson and Granderson will be the week's focal point, the series also includes an interesting pitching matchup of Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, in Tigers at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium .

3. Every visiting team hated the Metrodome, but the White Sox may have hated it more than anyone else. They definitely wouldn't have liked the idea of going there this week, down three games to the Twins in the AL Central race. But are they any better now that the Metrodome is gone, heading into a series that includes White Sox at Twins, Thursday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field ? Perhaps not. The Sox are 2-4 at Target Field, and Thursday starter Mark Buehrle lost his only start there (despite giving up just three runs in an eight-inning complete game). Buehrle is 0-5 in six starts in Minnesota since the start of the 2008 season.
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