MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Determination bears fruit for starter-turned-reliever Miller

Determination bears fruit for starter-turned-reliever Miller

Andrew Miller's recent success bears testament to his determination.

Miller was considered the best prospect in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft in June of 2006.

He slipped to the Tigers at the sixth pick only because he was looking for a multiyear, big league deal. The Royals, Rockies, Rays, Pirates and Mariners balked. The Tigers didn't mind giving Miller a four-year, $9 million deal.

Miller, however, didn't have instant success. The fact that he dealt with six years of failure and was able to reinvent himself enough that he signed a four-year, $36 million free-agent contract with the Yankees as a late-inning reliever this week underscores his determination to succeed.

In his first six pro seasons Miller bounced between the big leagues and Minor Leagues. His big-league record was 21-29 with a 5.79 ERA. He appeared in 96 games, 66 starts. He factored into deals that sent him from the Tigers to the Marlins to the Red Sox.

He, however, was not about to give up.

After opening the 2012 season at Triple-A, Miller got his chance to prove himself as a reliever with the Red Sox, and in the last three seasons he has compiled a 2.57 ERA and held batters to a .181 batting average in his bullpen efforts. What made him so enticing to the Yankees is that he has dominated right-handed hitters (.176) as well as left-handed hitters (.186).

Cy Stuff

Among the five players selected directly after Miller in the 2006 Draft were Clayton Kershaw (No. 7 to the Dodgers), Tim Lincecum (No. 10 to the Giants) and Max Scherzer (No. 11 to the D-backs). Those three pitchers have combined to win six Cy Young Awards.

Kershaw was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Lincecum won the NL Cy Young in 2008 and 2009. Scherzer was the American League Cy Young winner with the Tigers in 2013. The two pitchers who have won the NL Award in the last seven years that it didn't go to Kershaw or Lincecum were R.A. Dickey with the Mets in 2012 and Roy Halladay with the Phillies in 2010.

Dickey and Halladay also were first-round Draft picks. Dickey was picked 18th overall by the Rangers in 1996, and Halladay was the top pick of the Blue Jays in 1995 (17th overall).

Drought Victim

Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez has been dominant in his nine-plus big league seasons. A five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, he is 125-92 in 303 career starts.

And he has dealt with frustrations. He has recorded 61 starts in which he has worked seven or more innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer without a win. That's two more than Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, who was 251-174 in a 17-year career.

Hernandez had a career-high 14 of those starts in 2014 (he was 0-4 with 10 no-decisions).

Jack Nabors set the single-season record for the same frustrating stat in 1916 with the Philadelphia A's, when he was 0-10 with eight no-decisions in 18 starts. That was Nabors' only full season in the big leagues.

Nabors was 1-20 with a 3.47 ERA that year, and his big league career ended after two relief appearances in 1917.

There are five pitchers who recorded 17 starts in a season in which they did not allow an earned run and did not earn a victory: Brandon Webb, D-backs, 0-6, 11 no-decisions, 2004; Nolan Ryan, Astros, 0-9, eight no-decisions, 1987; Sam McDowell, Indians, 0-11, six no-decisions, 1968; Jim Kaat, Twins, 0-7, 19 no-decisions, 1965; and Doc Ayers, Senators, 0-9, eight no-decisions, 1914.

Final Thought

The best part of this week's "revelation" that Major League umpire Dale Scott is gay was that it wasn't news in baseball. Scott's never tried to hide his relationship with Michael Rausch, his domestic partner for 28 years before the two were married in 2013.

Two decades ago Rausch was issued an MLB ID card, listed as Scott's same-sex domestic partner, and he received MLB spousal benefits. Scott's crew partners have known Rausch over the years, and even those who weren't in Scott's crew were aware. Heck, even players and media members knew.

It was just never a big deal in baseball. It didn't impact the way Scott did his job. He has long been considered one of the game's elite arbiters.

Tracy Ringolsby, the 2005 recipient of the Hall of Fame's Spink Award, has covered Major League Baseball since 1976.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.