Andrew Miller finally put it all together. Then, disaster struck, leading to yet another hurdle for the hard-throwing lefty.
Miller, a former first-round pick of the Tigers in 2006, settled into an important role and pitched very effectively for the Red Sox in 2013 before suffering a foot injury in July that derailed his breakout campaign. It was a tough pill to swallow for Miller, although it sounds as if he’s ready to get right back on track in 2014.
“I’m good,” Miller told MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I’m doing physical therapy three times a week. I’m running, I’m doing agility, I’m cutting. Everything has gone really well. I’m not really concerned about my foot right now.”
Miller fought long and hard to overcome a “bust” label that had been slapped on him following some shaky seasons with the Tigers and Marlins. The veteran southpaw was up and down in his first season with the Sox in 2011, but his second season in Boston finally brought promise, as Miller posted a 3.35 ERA and 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 53 relief appearances. Miller then took a giant step forward in 2013 — a 2.64 ERA and 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 37 appearances — before the injury bug bit hard.
“I felt like it was getting better and better over the last two years and I’ve actually been pretty consistent,” Miller reportedly said. “I can still certainly get better, but I feel like I’m at a point in my career where things have been going in that direction and I’ll just try to keep it going. I’ve been around some pretty interesting years with the Red Sox and for me personally, it’s all been really good. I’ve enjoyed it and I feel like I’ve gotten better and gotten a chance to contribute to some pretty good teams and I just hope to keep it that way.”
Miller suffered last season’s foot injury during a game in Anaheim on July 6. Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck singled, after which Miller came up lame while running to back up catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It was a potentially demoralizing end to an otherwise promising season for Miller, but the 28-year-old still made sure to cherish the Red Sox’ eventual World Series win while working his way back to a point where he’s expected to be an important piece of Boston’s 2014 bullpen puzzle.
“You have to handle the punches that are thrown at you. It is what it is. There were no regrets,” Miller told Browne. “There was nothing I felt like I should have done differently or could have done differently to change the way things happened. It just happened. You have to roll with it and move on. I didn’t feel like it was worth sitting around and sulking over. It wouldn’t have done any good.”
The biggest reason for Miller’s turnaround in Boston has been his improved control. Assuming that he gets back to 100 percent, which Miller expects to be before Opening Day, the Red Sox could rely heavily on him at some point during the upcoming season, especially if something unforeseen happens to one of the club’s other relievers.
“The bullpen is a volatile place to pitch,” Miller reportedly said. “I’ve got to be ready to step in and help out in whatever role is available and pick up some slack if need be. It’s one of those things — it is what it is. I hope the positive is that my arm is fresh and I’m ready to go next year and make the best out of it.”
Making the best out of things hasn’t always been easy for Miller, so this perhaps represents just another test that he’ll soon overcome in Boston.