Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Adam Miller

The most tragic story involving the Indians thus far isn't their won-loss record or poor pitching. It's the plight of Adam Miller, who at one time was not only the brightest prospect in the Indians' minor league system, but one of the most promising prospects in any team's minor league system. Miller had it all. A perfect pitcher's frame, a blazing fastball that could at times push radar gun readings towards 100 mph, and a seemingly unlimited future.

Now his career is potentially over before he even pitched a single inning in the major leagues. Miller's career is in jeopardy due to, of all things, a freak finger injury. An injury so rare that nobody can recall any pitcher anywhere having the exact same injury. It's more typically a rock climbing injury, for crying out loud! Seriously.

It's a complicated injury to explain, suffice to say the ligaments and tendons in the middle finger of Miller's right hand are a mess. Tuesday he had surgery for the second time in less than a year on the same finger. The prognosis does not appear to be good. When club officials who are traditionally in the habit of spinning even the grimmest news in a positive light admit publicly that an injury could be a career-ender, you know it's bad. That's what Tribe officials have said about Miller - that his career is threatened by the surgery he underwent Tuesday.

If Miller never throws another pitch it will be a tragedy for the 24-year-old right-hander and another dose of bad luck for the Indians. Miller was a potential No.1 starter on a major league staff. And there aren't many pitching prospects in any organization that you can say that about. It's not out of the question, moreover, that Miller could have eventually moved into the role occupied now by Cliff Lee, when Lee leaves as a free agent, as he almost certainly will, in a couple of years.

Miller's major league career was set to begin this season, starting as a reliever in the Tribe bullpen, where he also could have eventually evolved into a closer. He appeared to be a budding Kerry Wood, to mention another Texas-born flame thrower who was drafted out of high school. A big career, and big money, was just around the corner.

But Miller's finger injury has changed all that. It's bad enough that it's a career-threatening injury. That it's a finger injury makes it even more frustrating. I mean, come on! How many athletes have you heard of who had their careers ended by a finger injury? Here's how cruel fate can sometimes be. Of all the jobs, all the professions, all the life styles in the world, the only one that would be this seriously affected by the kind of injury Miller has, which otherwise wouldn't be that big of a deal, was the one occupation Miller had: professional pitcher.


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