Rookie Miller pulled from Tigers rotation
Left-hander will be a September callup for bullpen
KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers believe Andrew Miller will be a quality Major League pitcher. However, they don't know when Miller will reach that level.
After he pitched just two-thirds of an inning and allowed five runs in Wednesday's loss, Miller was optioned to Class A Lakeland but will not head there. Instead, the organization wants him to take a few days off and then meet the team on Tuesday in Detroit.
Then, Miller will work with pitching coach Chuck Hernandez on the side and will not be activated until the team believes he is ready to return to a game.
"We want to be in a position with Andrew Miller where we work with him and get him to a spot where in Spring Training next year, he has a really good shot to make the club," general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
Miller, 22, was called up earlier this year and was considered one of Detroit's best starters. Leyland believed Miller, like Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya, could pitch at the Majors at such a young age. Miller, one year removed from college, has showed flashes of brilliance, but has struggled in recent starts.
"I think Andrew Miller is going to be a great pitcher," Leyland said. "We caught lightning in a bottle with Zumaya and Verlander. I thought we had a shot to do that with Andrew, but it hadn't quite worked out. He is going to be in the Tigers rotation for a long, long time.
"I love him and I take responsibility for [bringing him up]. I am not sad that I did it. I would do it again. But sometimes you figure out a guy is ready and other times you figure out a guy is not."
He has worked just nine innings in his last three starts and hasn't gone further than five innings in a start since July 5. Overall, Miller is 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA.
After posting a 4.84 ERA in June and a 3.71 mark in July, Miller has a 17.00 ERA this month.
"We are going to let him take a step back and let him refine his delivery a little bit which we will let him work on," Dombrowski said. "He has always thrown across his body, but it is a situation where he is throwing a little more across his body now. We love him, but it is time to take a step back."
Virgil Vasquez, 12-5 with a 3.48 ERA for Triple-A Toledo and 0-1 with a 9.39 ERA in two starts, will take Miller's place in the rotation and will start on Friday. Leyland said Jordan Tata, 1-1 with a 7.71 ERA in three starts, was an option "but wasn't the top recommendation."
Chad Durbin, the Tigers' probable starter for Friday, will be put back in the bullpen as the long reliever. After the starters worked just five innings in the first two games of the series, long men Jason Grilli and Zach Miner are both unavailable and Leyland wanted to have a reliever that could work multiple innings.
The rotation will have Justin Verlander throw Saturday and Nate Robertson on Sunday. After the off-day Monday, Jeremy Bonderman will throw on Tuesday. The Wednesday start could be Vasquez or Kenny Rogers. Rogers, who will throw a three-inning simulated game on Friday, could make Wednesday's start and push Vasquez back to Saturday.
Once Miller rejoins the Tigers, Dombrowski said the team will likely give him a few more days off before he starts working with Hernandez. They want Miller to focus solely on pitching -- not preparing for a game or a start.
"Our plans are not to put him on the roster right away when he comes back," Dombrowski said.
"I think there will be a chance that Andrew Miller will pitch in September for the Tigers, but I doubt that it will be as a starter," Leyland added. "I think he will see some spots to continue to get his feet wet."
"He is obviously one of our horses for the future and we are going to do some things with him in September in Detroit," the manager added.
Miller also believes the time will be useful for 2007 and beyond.
"I know that I can get outs," Miller said. "By putting this month to use, or this time period to use to be a better pitcher the rest of my career, I think it is valuable. Maybe it will be a blessing in disguise. I won't know until the end."
Leyland and Miller talked on Thursday morning. Miller, who was the Detroit's No. 1 pick in the 2006 Draft (No. 6 overall), has made just 13 Major League starts.
"I talked with him today at length and asked him to put his cutter in his back pocket and throw his two-seam, four-seam, curveball, change," Leyland said.
"He didn't tell me anything that I didn't already know," Miller added. "I know that I have to be a better pitcher. Whatever road we take to get there, we have to take some sort of a path and make an adjustment."
Miller's difficulties have hurt a rotation that has struggled all season. Entering Thursday, the Tigers have used 10 starting pitchers for at least two starts this year.
"All season long, we have had to roll the dice," Leyland said. "That usually spells problems. We are still hanging in there and we still have a chance. Andrew Miller is without question one of the top prospects in the country. He is going to be outstanding. We rolled the dice and it didn't work."
"For the benefit of Andrew Miller and the organization, we want to get him right."
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.