With the bullpen in the worst shape it's been in all year long, the Yankees needed players who could actually pitch as opposed to the injured (David Robertson, Boone Logan, and Shawn Kelley), the struggling (Preston Claiborne) and the always-atrocious (Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes). They added former Rockies reliever Matt Daley prior to yesterday's game since Mariano Rivera, Kelley, and Robertson were unavailable, and for today's game, they plan to add another staple from Triple-A Scranton's bullpen this year, Jim Miller:
Source: #Yankees promoting RHP Jim Miller on Saturday.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) September 7, 2013
The 31-year-old Miller was claimed off waivers from the Oakland Athletics in the off-season and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. He spent most of last year in the A's bullpen, and I wrote this about Miller back in February, recapping his 2012 season:
Since being drafted by Colorado in ’04, he really never made an impact at the major-league level until last year with Oakland. Miller was called up from Triple-A Sacramento in late April, and he pitched decently enough to hang around the big-league club for the next few months outside of a few brief demotions. He then returned to Sacramento in August only to come back for Oakland’s surprising September run to the AL West title over the Texas Rangers. Miller finished with a nice 2.59 ERA, but that walk-rate of 5.0 BB/9 and 4.74 FIP really leave something to be desired. He has a good 93 mph fastball weighted positively by FanGraphs last year (2.5), and it is complemented by a slider and curve that aren’t as good. It should say something that Oakland did not seem to be fooled by the sparkly ERA—they never appeared to hesitate about sending him down and Miller was left off the playoff roster. If Miller stays with the Yankees, expect him to be in the Triple-A bullpen.
Sure enough, Miller spent the all of 2013 in Scranton until now. He did have a very nice season down in the International League, where he appeared in 43 games, struck out 92 men, and pitched 63 1/3 innings to a 13.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 3.55 ERA, and 3.22 FIP. That's a lot of strikeouts, but he had not pitched to such a successful strikeout rate since the 2008 minor league season.
Miller relies on his fastball, but his two other pitches aren't as sharp, which explains why he's had difficulties hanging around the major league level. I'm sure that a few days ago, neither he nor Daley figured to be pitching again in 2013 after Scranton's season ended, but due to the injuries, they now find themselves in the middle of the playoff race.
The Yankees need someone surprising to step up and provide some measure of stability out of the 'pen. Daley did a decent job last night, and there have been flashes of potential from Cesar Cabral and Dellin Betances. Whether it's Miller, Daley, or one of the rookies, the Yankees have to try them out; relying on the old guard of Joba and Hughes simply isn't going to cut it anymore given how little the two seem to have left in the tank.