Notes: Miller replaces Bonderman

Notes: Miller replaces Bonderman

BOSTON -- Jeremy Bonderman won't be ready to pitch on Friday as expected. Thus, Andrew Miller's first Major League start is coming sooner than expected.

The Tigers will call up Miller, their first-round pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, to make his first Major League start on Friday night against the Cardinals at Comerica Park. He will take the place of Bonderman, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday with a blister on his right middle finger.

The blister is essentially gone, but the cut that remains has not healed enough to allow him to throw without pain. Bonderman felt the cut when he tried to throw off the mound on Wednesday afternoon at Fenway Park. With just two days before his scheduled start, the Tigers decided to scratch him.

"I can guarantee you," manager Jim Leyland said, "that he would not have been ready to pitch Friday."

When Bonderman wasn't ready to pitch last Sunday, the Tigers used an open bullpen spot to give a one-time start to Triple-A Toledo right-hander Virgil Vasquez. Vasquez gave up six runs on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings of a 16-4 loss to the Twins and, as planned, was optioned back to Toledo after the game.

The Tigers could have called Vasquez back up for Friday's start, but that would've meant losing Bonderman for his next scheduled start next Thursday against the Angels. Calling up Vasquez would have only allowed them to date back Bonderman's DL stint to last Sunday, when Vasquez pitched. By not doing so, they made it retroactive to May 9.

The opinion of Tigers player development officials -- and of Leyland, for that matter, when they met on Tuesday night -- was to give Miller a shot.

"I think he's got the best stuff of any of the choices," Leyland said. "I don't know if he's the best pitcher of any of the choices, but he has the best stuff of any of the choices, in my opinion."

This will not be Miller's Major League debut. He pitched 10 innings in relief down the stretch last season after being called up at the end of August, 2 1/2 months after the Tigers drafted him with the sixth overall selection.

The left-hander entered this year as Detroit's top-rated pitching prospect -- and one of the top prospects in baseball -- on schedule to develop as a starter in the Minor Leagues, beginning at Class A Lakeland. He went 1-4 in seven starts for the Flying Tigers despite a 3.48 ERA. His lone win was a complete-game shutout.

Miller was promoted last week to Double-A Erie and debuted for the SeaWolves with eight innings of six-hit ball with an unearned run and seven strikeouts, drawing what Leyland called a "raving report" from Tigers personnel.

"You can't just go on one game," Leyland said, "but they said his stuff at his first Double-A was definitely good enough to get big-league hitters out."

Whether Miller, who will turn 22 next Monday, has the experience to go with the stuff is another matter. Though his pure pitching was impressive last September, he walked 10 batters over 10 1/3 innings, including seven of the 16 left-handed batters he faced. In contrast, right-handed hitters went just 5-for-30 off him, with five strikeouts and three walks.

Miller's stuff is seen as good enough to get away with some mistakes.

"I'm not going to get overexcited for Friday, because it's probably a little unfair to the kid," Leyland said. "I can't say [whether] he's ready. What we're hoping, really, is that it's a one-shot deal where we can get him ... right back down there to Double-A to fall into his next turn."

The hope is that Bonderman will be ready to make his next scheduled start. After three days of hoping that Bonderman would be ready for Friday, however, nothing is being assumed.

Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said that Bonderman's finger is "improving daily, but not quite ready."

When Bonderman talked to reporters, the frustration was evident. He expected that he would feel fine throwing on Wednesday, only to find that the finger was still tender when he threw his sinker.

"It's still sore," Bonderman said, "but really, when I try to get on a ball, there's just no way. It burns. It's not healed. It's raw."

If it were later in the season, or during the postseason, Bonderman said that he might try to pitch through it. At this point, however, he doesn't want to let it linger the rest of the year and possibly cost him more starts down the road.

"Right now, I'm just frustrated," he said. "It's just one of those things. I feel like I'm worthless. I can't really do much."

Once Friday has passed, the Tigers won't immediately activate Bonderman from the DL just in case he isn't ready, in which case Miller would start again. But as soon as Bonderman is deemed ready to pitch, the plan is for Miller to be sent down.

"It is very unlikely," Leyland said, "that Miller is going to stay at this time, whether he pitches a no-hitter or gives up 10 runs. It isn't going to make any difference right now. It could later on, but at this point, no. Don't read into it more than there is."

Asked if Miller could pitch in relief, Leyland said, "I doubt that. I think he'll make one start here. I think he'll go back to Double-A. And I think probably, before the year's over, he'll probably be pitching for the Tigers. It could be this year, maybe yet in relief, but I wouldn't swear to that, either."

Up next: The Tigers and Red Sox will play a day-night doubleheader on Thursday at Fenway Park. Mike Maroth (3-0, 4.69) will try for his first win over the Red Sox opposite Julian Tavarez (1-4, 6.60) in the first game, at 12:35 p.m. ET. Chad Durbin (3-1, 5.08 ) will match up against Curt Schilling (4-1, 3.63) in the nightcap at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.