Miller May Not Be Forgotten At All

He sort of became the forgotten man in 2006. Throughout the season, pitchers were called up or talked about as potential additions to the Dodger staff. Greg Miller, though, never seemed to be one of those

Now, there seems to be more of the same. The endless talks about who might come up to help the club in 2007 or be a lucrative bargaining chip in a trade have begun in earnest. So, you hear about Kuo or some others but, again, no mention of Miller. But you know what? He's still out there and he still could very much figure in future plans, one way or the other.

Of course, his dropping off the preferred list is a result of his shoulder injury- the one that was thought at first to be mild enough to set him back, maybe, a couple of months but wound up costing him over a year and a half. And when he finally did get back, forced a change in his pitching motion.

He had been a conventional over-the-top type but now he uses a modified three-quarters to ease pressure on his repaired left shoulder. And that's been something of an experiment that has seen its share of tinkering as he has moved up and down from it in order to feel comfortable.

All this has caused his chief problem. It's certainly not velocity for he can spin a ball up there in the mid-90's with good movement. No, it's control for he hasn't been able to throw the ball for strikes often enough to dominate the hitters in the manner he had been used to pre-injury.

Ah, before the troubles began he was more than just a prospect. He was just about the very best young lefthander out there- a kid with great stuff and the intelligence to pitch a masterful game. One it seemed certain to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.

Now, he's a relief pitcher, one they were very conservative with in 2006, nursing the innings. He got in a total of 59, split between Jacksonville and Las Vegas, throwing in middle relief. The stats look good- an overall 4-0 mark with a 3.02 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .210 average.

It's the number of pitches required to accomplish that they kept him down on the farm for the whole year for he wound up walking 46 batters in that span. He spent a lot of time pitching behind in the count and it's a credit to his ability that he fared as well as he did.

Although he was backed off on a couple of occasions and spent some time on the disabled list, he got through the year relatively unscathed. Right now, he's in Arizona where he purchased a home, already working diligently.

And he feels good, maybe the best he has in three years. That's the heartening sign. Next spring he'll work on staying in the comfort zone while pitching with a great deal more accuracy.

It takes time to come back from these things- look at Kuo, who had the same control problems as a reliever but who found his way again when going back to being a starter. And you can't blame the Dodgers for speculating that, quite possibly, they could achieve the same results with Miller.

Greg himself hasn't been sure how much toil his arm can stand. But he's getting stronger and more confident, again typical of the long struggle to return from a serious injury.

He's never been truly typical, though. He has too much native ability and acumen for that. And if he gets back to close to what he was before, he can be very special again.

So, he's an extra chip to put into play when needed. Don't forget that. The Dodgers haven't.