It isn't easy leaving the only professional organization you've ever known. Just ask Jim Miller.
After being drafted in the 8th round of the 2004 draft, he spent the past four seasons with the Colorado Rockies. Although he spent much of that time ranking as one of the organization's top prospects, an inconsistent 2006 season caused the Rockies to include Miller as part of the return for Rodrigo Lopez this off-season.
"I was shocked at first," Miller told Inside The Warehouse. "I didn't know how to feel. I had really never gone through anything like that before. Once I started weighing everything, like where [the Orioles'] spring training was located and where all the teams I had a chance to play for were located, I was pretty pumped to be on the East Coast."
Walking into the Bowie Baysox' clubhouse, it's hard to believe that Miller has only been with the Orioles for a little over two months. You can hear his voice over almost anyone else's, as he talks about some of his former organization-mates in the Rockies' game on the clubhouse television and then moves on to joking with the clubhouse attendant about the quality of the post-game meal.
As Miller will tell you, though; his time in his new organization may not be the best way to gauge his comfort with his surroundings.
"I was in the [Arizona] Fall League the last two years and played with Ryan Hubele, Bryan Bass, [Jeff] Fiorentino, [Nolan] Reimold, Andy Mitchell, Cory Morris, Nick McCurdy, Ryan Keefer, [Brian] Finch, Val [Majewski], Tripper Johnson when he was still here, and Dustin Yount. Plus, my Pitching Coaches the first year I was out there was Larry McCall. So I was familiar with about fifteen guys and that made it a little easier to come over [to Baltimore]."
The Orioles have been relatively hands-off in their handling of the 25 year old right-hander, which is fine with him.
"I got traded January 14th, so it was a month and a half before spring training started. They just left me alone. It was like ‘See you in spring training and we'll go from there'."
"The Orioles have just sat back and let me do my thing. If there is something glaring that they see, then we address it. For the most part, they haven't really said much. They've just let me get into my own rhythm."
"If there's ever any work that [Baysox Pitching Coach Scotty McGregor and I] do, we come out early and get in the bullpen before batting practice. It's usually a ten to fifteen pitch session, nice and easy and just working on it."
In the early going, the Orioles' approach has paid dividends. Miller has become an integral piece to a prospect-laden Baysox bullpen. He has notched 2 saves, while striking out 29 batters in 24.2 innings and posting a 3.28 ERA.
"I throw three different pitches- a fastball, splitter, and curveball. The fastball is usually 89-92 MPH, maybe touch 93 or 94 MPH every now and then. The split is low to mid-70's, which is the same as the curveball."
Miller understands that the organization will give him more definitive goals as they become more familiar with what he is capable of.
"They just said they'll give me an opportunity to go out there and throw in some games, mostly in double-A or triple-A games, to see how I did and then we'll go from there."
Less than two years ago, Jim Miller was considered a possible closer-of-the-future with the Colorado Rockies. With youngsters like Chris Ray and Jim Hoey ahead of him in the Orioles' organizational depth chart, he doesn't have to live up to that billing anymore to be considered a success.
"The way we set it up in spring training and the way it's been here is they want to give me a chance to be a 7th or 8th-inning guy. They want me to be a one or two inning guy and get a chance to throw my off-speed stuff more often and get more comfortable with it. If I am going to be successful for a long time, I am going to need those pitches on a consistent basis."
With the way things are going, it's likely that Miller will get a big league look by 2008. With memories of Rodrigo Lopez's disappointing 2006 season still fresh in the minds of many Orioles fans, that would be enough to make the trade worthwhile. According to Baysox Manager Bien Figueroa, however, Miller has a chance to be an important piece of the big league bullpen.
"He's got a good fastball," Figueroa told Inside The Warehouse. "He's very sneaky. He's the kind of guy that looks like he doesn't throw hard and then he's right on top of you… I think it was a pretty good trade for the Orioles."
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com