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Miller Time fast approaching for Indians

Miller Time fast approaching for Indians

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Adam Miller knows it's not up to him to decide when it's time for his big-league debut.

"It's not like I can go in the office one day and say, 'OK, I'm ready now,'" he said with a smile. "All that stuff is out of my hands."

But when the ball is in Miller's hands, he does plenty to convince the Indians that time is fast approaching.

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At the ripe old age of 22, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Miller has been, perhaps, the most eye-catching player at the Tribe's Chain of Lakes complex -- not just on the mound, but in the clubhouse.

"He's a man," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "You watch the way he walks around this clubhouse, and he's very respectful, but he has a presence about him. Even on the mound, he has that presence."

Opposing batters didn't present much of a threat to Miller, who was reassigned to Minor League camp earlier this week.

Sure, Spring Training numbers carry about as much weight as the stick-thin Miller does, but they're worth noting, nonetheless. In four appearances, including three starts, he didn't allow a run over 14 innings, only helping to solidify his status as the Tribe's No. 1 prospect.

But while Miller might have taken big-league batters by surprise, what he did in camp was hardly a shock to those in the organization.

"I don't think anyone is surprised at what he's come in and done this spring," manager Eric Wedge said.

Why? Well, look to Miller's recent history, not to mention his stuff.

While his fastball might not creep past 100 mph, as it did before a 2005 elbow injury, he does still have a four-seamer with considerable zip, to go with a changeup and a two-seamer that he just began incorporating into his repertoire at Akron last season.

The results in '06 weren't just encouraging. They were worthy of salivation.

Miller rolled over Double-A batters. He went 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA in 26 appearances, leading the Eastern League in wins and ranking second in ERA. He struck out 157 batters and walked 43 in 153 2/3 innings of work.

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By the time it was over, he had been named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year and was given the Bob Feller Award as the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year.

Still, one spot start is the entirety of his experience in Triple-A, and the Indians, ever cautious with their prospects, don't want him to skip the valuable lessons that can be learned at that level. So even when an Opening Day rotation spot became available through an injury to Cliff Lee, it was Fausto Carmona, not Miller, who claimed it.

That being said, Miller is best advised to get a short-term rental agreement in Buffalo. The Indians are not shy about touting him as a potential starter in the bigs this season.

"We've never felt like Adam was a year away,'' general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We've always felt that he could impact our team sometime this year. We felt he had the level of talent that, whenever that time came, it would be evident. When he puts everything together, he can dominate the competition."

Miller proved it last year, and he intends to prove it again in '07.

Most importantly, he's proved he's healthy.

Miller strained his throwing elbow during Spring Training two years ago and was promptly shut down for the first half of that '05 season. Fortunately, the injury did not require surgery, but it was still cause for concern as to how it would affect his delivery.

As it turns out, Miller actually feels fortunate for what he went through. Because when his blazing fastball didn't come back completely intact, he was forced to reinvent his approach to hitters.

"I learned a lot from the injury," he said. "I definitely think I became more of a pitcher. The fastball wasn't all the way there, so I started relying on my other stuff. And when I went to the Arizona Fall League [after the '05 season], the changeup was actually my best pitch. It was kind of weird."

Miller admitted it felt a little weird to resume throwing after the long layoff brought on by the injury.

"It felt more like I hadn't thrown in a couple years," he said. "At first, it kind of impacted me, but, as I started doing more and more, it was just normal pitching."

Now that he's fully healthy, Miller is putting together abnormally effective outings that will only serve to hasten his march to the Majors.

But he's not going to worry about his timetable.

"I just have to take care of my business," he said, "and see what happens."

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

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