Notes: Miller indebted to Tribe

Notes: Miller indebted to Tribe

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- No one's going to show up at his door in the middle of the night threatening to break his kneecaps, but Matt Miller still feels like he is in tremendous debt to the Indians.

While elbow injuries have taken a major toll on Miller each of the past two seasons, the organization has stuck with him.

And now that his arm is feeling better than it has in years, Miller wants to pay the Tribe back.

"I'm ready to throw 90 games for this club, if they let me," Miller said. "I owe them a lot for what they've done for me."

The Indians won't be asking the 35-year-old Miller to throw in 90 games, but it looks certain they will ask him to be a member of their Opening Day bullpen. He's earned the job by making a full recovery from the elbow surgery he underwent last April, and by putting together scoreless outings in four of his first five Grapefruit League appearances.

Miller struck out 11 of the first 24 batters he faced in 5 1/3 innings of work -- a statistic one wouldn't expect from a guy who hasn't averaged a strikeout an inning in his big-league career.

He was asked when he became a strikeout pitcher.

"This spring," Miller said with a laugh. "When my slider is working well, I can get a lot of strikes. But actually, the older I get, the more first-pitch outs I want."

When healthy, Miller has shown a knack for getting those outs. In 94 total appearances with the Tribe over the last three years, he's put up a 6-1 record and 2.77 ERA.

"I don't want to sound cocky," Miller said, "but I'm not worried about competing with anybody. If I'm healthy, I feel I can compete with anybody."

Even left-handed batters. As a sidearm-thrower, the right-handed Miller is at a natural disadvantage when it comes to retiring lefties. Still, his numbers against them are decent -- a .234 average against in 111 at-bats.

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Miller hopes those numbers can help him get more than just a situational role in the Indians 'pen.

"I would love to work my way back to where they're confident in me against lefties," Miller said. "I try to go at them with the same intensity as right-handers. I wouldn't say they should put me in there in the ninth inning against Ken Griffey Jr., instead of Aaron Fultz, but I can still get the job done."

Bad rumor: Word of mouth -- and inaccurate word of mouth, at that -- allowed Tony Sipp to slip all the way to the 45th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.

"Some scout told me that the word on me was, 'Don't take him because he's not worth [the money that] he's asking for,'" Sipp recalled. "I didn't have an agent, so I was like, 'What am I asking for?' I don't know how that got out."

The Indians, who took Sipp with the 1,337th overall pick in that year's draft, are happy they didn't believe the false rumor, because they view the left-hander as one of their more prominent relief prospects.

To this point, Sipp, who will open the year at Triple-A Buffalo, has pitched four innings, giving up a pair of runs on six hits with six strikeouts. He said he's not concerning himself with worrying about whether or not the Indians will give him the call to the big leagues this season.

"Trying to figure that out will give you a headache," Sipp said. "I'm not trying to open up eyes or do anything spectacular. I just want to gain experience."

Press box pet: A 3-foot-long black snake slithered its way through the press box at Chain of Lakes Park during the fourth inning of Tuesday's game against the Mets, causing either hilarity or panic, depending on which sportswriter you asked.

"That was a first," Tribe director of media relations Bart Swain said.

Maintenance worker Gene "Gator" Mathews grabbed the snake with his bare hands and carried him out of the box and toward freedom.

Immediately after the incident, which found its way onto the SportsTime Ohio broadcast of the game, Swain received an e-mail from a member of the Elias Sports Bureau that read, "Does the snake have a press credential?"

Let's talk about it: The Indians front office and coaching staff had a meeting after Tuesday's game to discuss the next round of roster cuts.

"We won't do anything until after [Wednesday's] split-squad," manager Eric Wedge said.

The Indians currently have 52 players in camp.

Tribe tidbits: Utility infield candidate Hector Luna impressed Wedge with his play on Sunday and Monday, but took a step back while playing third base on Tuesday. Luna made two errors on a single play -- bobbling a grounder hit by Damion Easley, then short-arming his throw to first. "It's a combination of him needing to get in better shape and us needing him to be more sure-handed than what we've seen," Wedge said of Luna's problems. ... Outfielder Ben Francisco continued his impressive camp by cranking out a solo home run off left-hander Jason Vargas in the second inning of Tuesday's game against the Mets. It was Francisco's third homer in 11 games. "He's playing real good baseball," Wedge said of Francisco. "He stands up there and puts up a good at-bat." ... C.C. Sabathia gave up four runs on five hits in four innings of work on Tuesday. "I was a little out of whack the first two and a half innings," Sabathia said. "After the first out in the third, I was able to make better pitches. I'm close to ironing things out. I'm pretty close to where I need to be."

On deck: The Indians will get a double dose of the Blue Jays on Wednesday -- both at home and on the road. The two clubs will play a pair of split-squad games in Winter Haven and Dunedin. The Tribe's home game, which begins at 12:35 p.m. ET, will feature right-hander Paul Byrd starting against right-hander John Thomson. Out in Dunedin, right-hander Adam Miller will start against right-hander Tomo Ohka at 1:05 p.m. ET.

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