Miller says he's ready after solid outing
Left-hander eager to get season started after Friday's start
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- You knew things were working for Andrew Miller on Friday when the Marlins left-handed pitcher collected his first hit in pro ball and then successfully dropped a sacrifice bunt.
Both came off a pretty tough opponent: Houston's Roy Oswalt.
"That was pretty much pure luck, but it doesn't say that in the scorebook," Miller said jokingly of his sharp single. "That felt good. That felt better than any ball I hit off a batting machine."
More encouraging than his prowess at the plate was the fact he threw a solid 5 2/3 innings in the Marlins' 8-3 win, marking the team's 10th straight victory in Grapefruit League games away from Jupiter, Fla.
The Marlins share Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter with the Cardinals, and have lost to St. Louis as a road team. But in other road games, they remain unbeaten.
Miller allowed two runs on six hits with two strikeouts and three walks in his longest Grapefruit League outing.
The 6-foot-6 lefty, who attended the University of North Carolina and lives in Gainesville, Fla., had about 18 family members and friends at the game Friday.
They witnessed an effort that certainly bolstered his chances of making the rotation. In fact, Miller lines up to pitch on Opening Day, but that assignment may end up going to veteran Mark Hendrickson.
"He threw strikes, he got the breaking ball over -- that was impressive," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He sure handled the bat pretty good, too. He got a base hit and a sac bunt. That was a very good outing for him."
Command has been an issue most of Spring Training for the rangy lefty who was a centerpiece in the December deal that sent Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.
Miller was pleased that he was able to face a number of the projected Houston regulars, like Hunter Pence, Mark Loretta, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada.
"I think this was a good test," Miller said. "They had a lineup that they pretty much are going to go with. I think one of the good things of making a trip like this is they were going with their big guys."
The two runs allowed by Miller came on Jose Cruz Jr.'s pinch-hit, two-run homer in the fifth inning.
"I'm getting pretty close to being ready to go out there and throw 100 pitches," Miller said.
For the second straight outing, Miller had to deal with dodging baseballs hit right back at him. He was clipped on two occasions on Friday, with the second shot bouncing off his leg in the sixth inning.
In his previous start, Juan Pierre of the Dodgers ripped a one-hopper that connected on Miller's right palm and deflected off his chest. He says he still has a bruise, and he joked that after not wearing a cup against the Dodgers, he made sure he had one on in Kissimmee.
While Miller is getting close to being ready for the regular season, the Marlins also made a move that puts Hendrickson in contention to start the March 31 opener against the Mets.
Hendrickson is pitching on short rest on Saturday against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. The veteran is going on four days' rest after he threw six shutout innings against the Dodgers on Tuesday.
Gonzalez has not yet announced if Hendrickson would throw again next Wednesday. If he does, however, chances are he will be pitching in a Minor League game that day. One reason is that the Marlins face the Mets in Port St. Lucie on that day.
The team likely would avoid having Hendrickson face the Mets in a Grapefruit League game five days before he would be seeing them in the season opener.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.