Trevor Miller is one step closer to fulfilling his dream of pitching in the majors.
Miller was promoted from Double-A Jackson Generals to the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers on Tuesday night after the Generals fell 8-2 to the Chattanooga Lookouts in Tennessee.
“He just threw the ball very well,” Generals manager Jim Horner said by phone Wednesday from Tennessee. “We usually don’t promote them unless they’re ready to go. He threw the ball well here.”
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound, right-handed hurler is now a member of the Seattle Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Washington.
This marks the third straight year that Miller has been called up in-season.
“It feels good,” Miller said by phone Wednesday after landing in Seattle. “The season’s almost over, but I’m happy that I have the opportunity. I’m glad they picked me to come here.”
Miller’s climb up the ranks of the Mariners’ farm system came after an up-and-down year for the 2009 Bret Harte Bullfrog graduate.
He entered this season as Jackson’s opening-day starter, but after 13 starts, Miller was moved into the bullpen.
As a starter, he posted a 3-7 record with a 5.45 ERA, 40 earned runs and 46 strikeouts in 66 innings for the Generals, of the Southern League. He also walked 30 batters.
After seeing Miller struggle to begin the season, the Mariners organization and Generals pitching coach Lance Painter made the decision to change his role.
“I think after watching him last year and seeing him the first half of this year, we realized that he’s an up-tempo type pitcher,” Painter said. “He really looked better suited to be a reliever than a starter.”
Miller, who has always been a member of a starting rotation after being selected by Seattle in the 40th round of the 2011 MLB draft, embraced the move.
“Trevor really made the change very easily,” Painter said. “He had thrown about 60-65 innings before the move. His durability has been very surprising and very good. He built up his arm strength as a starter and it transitioned really well as a reliever.”
In Miller’s first appearance out of the bullpen on June 22, he tossed 1 2/3 innings, gave up four hits and two earned runs with no strikeouts, not a great start, but he’s been rolling since.
As a reliever in 2014, Miller is 2-1 with a 1.40 ERA in 18 appearances. He has fired 45 innings and allowed just 39 hits and seven earned runs. He also struck out 41 batters and walked only 13.
“He developed a good routine, and he kind of took a hold of it,” Horner said. “Once he got moved into the bullpen, we felt that was his best chance at the big leagues as a bullpen guy.
“We used him in any role. We closed him. We used him in the middle. He’s very durable. He has a very durable arm, which is a very good bullpen asset.”
After giving up five home runs as a starter, Miller did not allow a single round-tripper out of the bullpen.
“I was frustrated in the beginning of the season,” Miller said. “You go through your lows sometimes, and you have to battle through it. There’s never a doubt. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, so I just decided to go out there and knew what I can do. Find the little things that keeps me going each pitch.”
In his last 23 1/3 innings on the mound, Miller did not allow a single earned run. He capped off his year with Jackson finishing third on the team with 87 strikeouts in 111 innings. He lowered his season ERA to 3.81
“I always saw him as a reliever,” Painter said. “I didn’t really see him as a starter in the major leagues. I thought he would gain some velocity — but what he’s done is — he’s learned to cut the ball more consistently. He’s throwing more consistent strikes with the pitches. His command has gotten better. His off-speed pitches have become more consistent as well.
“He’s really enjoyed being in the bullpen. That’s definitely a big plus. It helps if he’s willing to receive that and not look at it as a demotion, and he’s done that.”
With the minor league regular season coming to a close at the beginning of September, Miller may have one last opportunity this year to throw in front of family and friends.
The Tacoma Rainiers will closeout 2014 with a five-game Pacific Coast League series against the Fresno Grizzlies from Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 at Chukchansi Park in Fresno.
“He’s really enjoying pitching right now,” Painter said. “Success breeds confidence. Now that he’s having success, you can see the success breed his confidence. He’s a different pitcher now.”
Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties