08/21/07 7:35 PM ET
Notes: Miller to start on Friday
Left-hander will return to action against the Yankees
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
After throwing three innings of one-hit ball with one run allowed and five strikeouts for the Mud Hens on Monday night, Miller is headed back to the Tigers rotation. He'll start Friday's series opener against the Yankees at Comerica Park.
It'll be his first start since Aug. 3, when he pulled his left hamstring and left after four innings with six runs allowed. The way he threw on Monday, needing just 34 pitches and throwing 25 strikes, gives hope he could return stronger than when he left.
"He looked outstanding -- best I've ever seen him," Leyland said Tuesday. "Now if he can bottle that delivery and smoothness and the ball jumping out of his hand like last night, he'll be fine. That was one night, that was three innings, but he looked absolutely outstanding. I was very impressed.
"He located the ball good, threw the ball good. He looked like a big league pitcher."
A large part of his effectiveness started with strike one. By making some tweaks to his delivery that the Tigers suggested, he had better command of all his pitches, and he was able to get ahead in counts to set up a good breaking ball.
"The ball was going where it was supposed to go," Miller said.
As a result, the Tigers are putting him where they planned to use him. By limiting his start to three innings, they can bring him back on three days' rest for Friday in Chad Durbin's spot rather than replacing his fill-in, Jair Jurrjens.
"In that rotation, the original idea why he wanted me down [in the bullpen] anyway is that on any given day, [Miller] can shut down any given team," Durbin said. "He can go out there and shut down anybody. You have to be realistic. He's 7-foot-10 and throws a million from an arm slot that doesn't exist in my life. As a manager who's been around a long time, you have to make that call. Hopefully I can help solidify the innings getting to the guys who are back now."
Unless Kenny Rogers is ready to pitch on Sunday, and that's anyone's guess, Jurrjens will make at least one more start after Tuesday and could end up as more than the spot starter he was expected to be when the team summoned him from Double-A Erie last week to face the Indians.
Thus, for now, Miller no longer is the youngest member of the rotation. But as well as the 22-year-old pitched Monday, that doesn't mean he's polished yet.
"He's still young, so he's going to have his ups and downs," Leyland said. "I'm not getting carried away with three innings at Toledo. He's a future big-time pitcher, in my opinion. How soon that'll be? I have no idea."
As for Durbin, he's in the bullpen effective immediately. With both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya back, he won't pitch the setup role he had before he became a starter again, but he could pitch in a variety of spots. Since Miller won't be activated until Friday, Durbin will be part of an eight-man bullpen.
"Durbin's in good shape for the bullpen because he's stretched out again," Leyland said. "He's pretty flexible. He's a very valuable pitcher, in my opinion."
Speaking of Rogers: He threw what he called a light bullpen session during batting practice Tuesday afternoon and felt fine with his elbow. It wasn't meant to see how his pitches are so much as he wanted to see how his elbow felt throwing off a mound for the first time in a few weeks.
"There's no setbacks, so that was good," Rogers said. "I was only going about 75 percent, so it was nothing major. I was just testing out the stress level, and hopefully I can go a little bit more next time."
That follow-up outing, which would be a more intense side session, is expected to come on Thursday or Friday. Unless the Tigers insist on a rehab assignment for the 42-year-old, which doesn't seem likely, another side session or two could be the final steps to put him back into the rotation as soon as next week.
"I'll figure out how I can get it done, as long as I don't have any setbacks," Rogers said. "The plus side is I do feel like it's getting better. The down side is I don't know if we have enough time that I'd like to have, but that's OK, too. Best case scenario is to be back out there pitching as soon as possible."
Day off for Inge: It's not an outright benching for Brandon Inge, Leyland cautioned, but it's a one- or two-day trip to the bench to try to get him away from the game and snap him out of his funk. Over his last 44 games, Inge is batting .210 with 61 strikeouts, which almost doubles his hit total over that stretch.
"I'm going to get him away from it for a day or so," Leyland said. "He's struggling."
Ryan Raburn started in Inge's place at third base, making his first start at the hot corner since 2003 at Class A Lakeland. He started out in pro ball as a third baseman before the Tigers moved him to second in 2004 at Double-A Erie. He was a second baseman for Toledo in 2005 before converting to the outfield last year.
Leyland had no idea what to expect from Raburn at third base Tuesday, but he knew he had to get Inge away.
"At the same time, I want to make it perfectly clear, we need Brandon Inge," Leyland said. "No question about that. So, Brandon Inge isn't in jail. He's getting another day off [on top of Monday's off-day]. Sometimes you have to make adjustments."
Coming up: Justin Verlander (13-4, 3.63 ERA) will take on Paul Byrd (11-5, 4.41) in the second game of this American League Central showdown between the Tigers and Indians. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.