Is There Light At The End of the Tunnel ?

At first it appears like another ordinary pitching line from another game. It was Jacksonville vs. Mobile and the translated reading was "two innings, two hits, one unearned run, no walks, two strikeouts." But it wasn't mundane at all for the line was that of Greg Miller and the significant part of it is that he didn't walk a man. And it's been awhile that Greg could include that in his stats.

The mystery of what has happened to Miller's control has been one that has been perplexing the Dodgers for a couple of months now. It happens to pitcher every so often- they suddenly lose the way to the plate and wander in a wilderness of bases on balls. Like it did to Rick Ankiel of the Cards.

Ankiel is now making a comeback as an outfielder but Miller doesn't have that option. Besides, Rick was Nook LaLoosh wild, endangering mascots, groundskeepers and nearby wildlife with his throws. Miller hasn't been out of the strike zone by much- just a little bit here and a tad that there.

But off he's been and in a season that began so promising. Free of the shoulder woes that have plagued him for so long, he was so effective in the spring that he was pulled back from the bullpen to become once again a starting pitcher of considerable note.

He seemed only a heartbeat away from a callup when suddenly the malady struck. The walk totals reached alarming numbers- 46 in 28.2 innings when at last he was sent back from Las Vegas to Jacksonville to recuperate. But his first game for the Suns saw him face four batters, walk three and give up a hit. Didn't get an out and all four scored.

The problem? You might get a different diagnosis from each of the coaches who've been trying to doctor it. It seems mostly to rest in an uncomfortable arm slot. Once an over-the-top guy, he was switched to almost sidearm, all the better to ease pressure on the injured shoulder.

Since then he's been moving it up and back down and all around it order to get with it. The trouble certainly hasn't been with the quality of his pitches. He was clocked at 98 in Las Vegas, at 97 with Jacksonville. That plus a wicked curve. No, he has all the quality pitches of a future big league star.

If he can get them over the plate with consistency. That's why that effort on July 1 was so significant. Or could be. For if Miller can get those pitches around the plate - throw the ball the way he 's capable of, he has all the ability to be something special.

Miller has always been something of a cerebral pitcher. Maybe that'd been a part of the problem, too, for he demands much of himself and this lack of success has eroded his confidence.

He's hardly somebody you write off. Not at 23- not with the stuff he throws. So, they'll monitor his next outings with meticulous care.

There's already been a second coming of Greg Miller. That's when he overcame the shoulder operations. A third arrival back is something they await almost breathlessly. If the past is prologue, Miller has a chance to be all they've waited for and more.