Miller time at Fenway Park

Andrew Miller is back in the bigs with Monday's start against the Padres. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Fresh off winning two of three over Milwaukee, the Boston Red Sox are brewing up their own serving of Miller at Fenway. Left-hander Andrew Miller made his Red Sox debut tonight against the Padres. The former first round pick is in search of a bit of redemption as his career has fell dreadfully short of expectations.

The big lefty was the No. 6 pick out of North Carolina by Detroit back 2006. If memory serves correctly he had been as high No. 1 overall on some draft boards, that honor going to Luke Hochevar instead. Upon being selected, Miller projected as a frontline starter for the Tigers but has experienced no success at the major league level thus far.

Detroit wasted little time moving Miller up through the system; he had his first big league appearance by late August of 2006. In eight relief outings he did very little to impress that first year. Even with the early struggles, the Tigers opted not to allow him time to mature in the minors and thrust him into a starting role midway through 2007. Again, he experienced a low success rate.

Through his first 13 starts, Miller was a mediocre 5-5. Ironically enough, his best start in 2007 probably was against Boston, 7 IP, 1 ER and 3 H. Detroit maintained a reluctance to give him time to develop, perhaps accounting for his diminished production. One piece of perspective to bear mind, noted that Miller had a clause guaranteeing his promotion to the majors. So Detroit should not be held completely at fault for his meteoric rise through the ranks.

His struggles continued over the next few years. The most notable occurrence being that he was included in the blockbuster trade that sent Miguel Cabrera from Florida to Detroit. His All-American status and dominance at the college level seemed far behind him.

Despite his struggles, the Sox saw fit to offer him a contract this off-season. It was not GM Theo Epstein’s first attempt at such signings. Through his tenure, pitchers like Wade Miller and Joel Pineiro have been signed with similar expectations. Granted, neither of them were first-rounders, but both turned in better years than Miller ever has.

Going into spring training at Fort Myers, Miller probably placed seventh or eighth on the rotation depth chart. After a serviceable spring, he was assigned to the minors and did not figure to play a role on the Sox.

Since joining the rotation in triple-A Pawtucket, Miller has showed signs of life. In 12 starts, he is 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA. In 2010, his 6.4 BB/9 rate in double-A suggested some control problems, but he has lowered that to 4.8 so far this year.

Due to injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and more recently Clay Buchholz, Miller is going to get a shot at the bigs again. In fact, with Bucholz on the 15-day DL, it is not out of the question that Miller is part of the rotation for the foreseeable future. Even if he underperforms, the Sox may be forced to stick with him until at least Buchholz returns. Certain contractual obligations make it less than advantageous for the Sox to demote him as he is out of options and would likely find several suitors on the free-agent market.

A best-case scenario for the Sox would be that Miller continues to pitch like he has with the Pawsox. A few good outings might even result in Miller supplanting Tim Wakefield as the fifth starter or give manager Tito Francona cause to consider a six-man rotation.

Some good innings may even push the big lefty into the bullpen in preparation for the stretch run. The Sox are a bit thin at left-handed relief, and he could fill that role should Epstein decide not pursue bullpen help as the upcoming trade deadline approaches. Keeping in mind, Miller is still just 26 and was tabbed on of the best prospects in the game at one point, holding on to him does not seem to have much downside.

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