Miller Has Yet Another Surgery

If that headline isn't an oxymoron, the term just shoulden't exist. But read on and you will see that it does apply. In 2003, 18-year-old Greg Miller seemed to one of the brightest of the bright in the Dodger farm system. He had been their first round draft pick in 2002 and had performed well at Great Falls, recording a 3-2, 2.37 record with 37 strikeouts in 38 innings while walking only 10.

He jumped over low-A and moved to Vero Beach, dazzling everyone with a 96 mph fastball that was complimented by a knuckle curve and a circle change, a remarkable repertory for one so young.

In his second season, at 18, he breezed through the tough Florida State League, winning 11 of 15 decisions and posting a 2.49 earned run average, striking out 111 in 116 innings. He tacked on a brief, four-game stint at AA Jacksonville, performing even better at the higher level. He fanned 40 in 27 innings while his ERA slid to 1.01.

Hideo Nomo was injured, and the Dodgers chose Edwin Jackson, an equally talented righthander, instead of Miller in a decision that could have gone either way.

"I didn't feel fatigued at all," Miller Baseball America. "I was settling in at Double-A, I thought, and was throwing well. Through the whole year my arm felt great, from April through Sept. 20." But on Sept. 20 he was throwing in the bullpen back Jacksonville when his biceps tightened up. "I had never felt like that before," he says. "I couldn't extend my arm."

It seemed to be a touch of tendinitis he was shut down. But things just didn't get any better. He had an MRI, and that led to arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in March, 2004. The Dodgers expected him back by June or July, instead, he missed the whole year. Miller would seemingly make progress in his throwing program but when he got back on a mound, inflammation and soreness returned in the shoulder.

That's the bad news. The good news is that although Miller hasn't pitched in a game since, he might be seeing the end of the whole ordeal thanks to a second surgery in late January.

The problem was that the tip of his shoulder blade was shaped in such a way that it was causing inflammation by rubbing up against tissue in the shoulder.

Surgery shaved down the bone, hopefully ending further irritation and getting Miller back on the mound pain-free. The technical name for the procedure is acromioplasty, the reshaping of the tip of the shoulder blade.

"He's going to be fine," Dodgers farm director Terry Collins said. "I know Greg's really frustrated with it, and it was a disappointment that they had to go back in there. But now we know there was a reason he had the discomfort. We're going to make some correction to make him more comfortable in his delivery."

He has begun his rehab at Physiotherapy Associates in Tempe, Arizona, and will only start throwing after Dr. Jobe examines his arm in early March.

No timetable has been put on his return but it is thought he should see action some time later in 2005.

Collins pledges the Dodgers will monitor his pitch counts, workload and mechanics more closely than they did in '03, when he threw 143 innings but Miller put the blame on the structure of his shoulder blade for the injury rather than any overuse by the organization.

"I'm excited about this surgery, hopefully my last surgery," he said. "I definitely have goals for this year, but with all I've gone through the last year or so, I'm going to keep those goals to myself."

Dreifort surgery
Right-hander Darren Dreifort had exploratory surgery on his right shoulder at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. Jobe and Gambardella found no major damage to Dreifort's rotator cuff and cleaned out the joint.

The surgery is Dreifort's fourth in the past five months - two knee surgeries, one hip surgery and the shoulder operation - and doesn't affect his prognosis. He is not expected to pitch in 2005.

Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to Vero Beach, Florida, on Friday for spring training, with the first workout scheduled for Saturday. The first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 24.