Vongni Yang, The Union Democrat

Minor league pitcher Trevor Miller is entering his third full year as a professional baseball player.

And his goal remains the same - to play in the Major Leagues.

"I'm trying to get up there as fast as I can," said Miller, a former Bret Harte standout. "That's basically it. I've got to keep throwing strikes."

But the only issue for Miller - as he heads into a new season - is knowing where he might be assigned in the minors.

Near the end of the 2013 season, the 22-year-old Murphys native was promoted from the High Desert Mavericks in California to the Double-A Jackson Generals of the Southern League in Tennessee. Both clubs are affiliated with the Seattle Mariners.

There, Miller impressed and was thrown into the starting rotation right away. He started eight games as a General and finished the year with a 3-2 record, including a 4.82 ERA. He tossed 46 2/3 innings and struck out 28.

Opposing batters hit just .265 in Miller's first season in Double-A. He recorded a season-high seven strikeouts in a 7-3 win over Chattanooga onAugust 26. In eight games, he pitched five or more innings six times.

Seattle Mariners pitching coordinator Terry Clark, who was the Double-A and Triple-A pitching coach last season, said Miller ranks somewhere in the Top 20 of prospects for the organization.

"He's come a long way," said Clark, a former minor and major league hurler. "He's really turned it up and is throwing the ball really well. He's definitely on the radar for us. We think highly of him."

Miller is climbing the ranks of the Mariners' farm system. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander is currently in spring training with Seattle's Triple-A team, the Tacoma Rainiers in Arizona.

"If he keeps progressing the way he's progressing and stays down in the zone - when he's down in the zone - he's a ground ball pitcher," Clark said. "There's absolutely a place for him in the big leagues, whether it's Seattle or another organization. He'll probably start in Double-A and go from there."

Miller has the history to back that up.

After a stellar sophomore season at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, where he helped lead his team to the state title with a perfect 8-0 regular season record and a No. 6 national ranking, Miller was selected by the Mariners in the 40th round of the 2011 First-Year Player MLB Draft.

Since Miller still had two years of collegiate eligibility, he had the option to turn pro or return to school.

Miller held a scholarship offer from UNLV, and despite missing some time during San Joaquin Delta's historic postseason run with a minor injury, the ace made the decision to opt out of an education, at least for now, and pursue his dreams of playing pro ball.

"I had a scholarship, but chances are, you may only get drafted once," Miller said. "I wanted to take that opportunity."

In Miller's professional full debut season with the Clinton LumberKings in 2012, he led the Single-A affiliate Midwest League team in innings pitched (120 2/3), strikeouts (84) and wins (7). He tossed his first career complete game in a 4-1 win over Dayton in mid-July. In that victory, he gave up an early home run and four hits, but shook it off to strike out five. He also did not allow a single walk.

Soon, his strong year yielded a late promotion to throw for High Desert, where he made five quality starts and recorded 29 strikeouts.

The following year, Miller began the season in his home state as a member of the Mavericks starting rotation.

Miller, again, posted solid numbers, which prompted another in-season call up. This time with the Jackson Generals in July 2013. With that experience facing better competition, he has developed a better feel for the game. His confidence in his abilities have also drastically increased.

"I feel as a starting pitcher, I can read batters better," Miller said. "I kind of know where the hitter wants the ball, where they're trying to hit it. I'm trying to do the opposite of what they're doing. Always trying to mix it up."

At each level, Miller has improved in at least one area or more, Clark said.

Miller's fastball ranges in the high 80s and dips into the low 90s. He has reached 92 mph, but his control and velocity is what makes him lethal.

"He has the ability to change speeds," said Clark, who watched Miller throw four inningson Sundayin spring training. "His fastball has good movement. His fastball is way above average. Way better. His fastball command has always been his nemesis. This spring, he has been really, really good."

Besides possessing a "way above average fastball," Miller has plenty of strong pitches at his arsenal to keep batters off balance.

In addition to his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, he has developed a steady changeup. Other quality pitches he likes to throw is a curve and cutter.

But despite Miller's heavy artillery, he believes his strongest pitch is his changeup.

"I think it's my best because I can throw it anytime I want for a strike," Miller said. "It seems to get a lot of swings and misses with it."

Whether Miller begins his season back with the Generals or is promoted to Triple-A, his team goal is to add another title banner to his personal collection.

"I'm trying to win a championship wherever I am," Miller said. "That's what we're here for - to win ball games."

However, Miller does have one individual goal. He wants to earn a spot on the All-Star team in the summer and hopes to be one of the best pitchers in his league.

With the backing and support from the Seattle Mariners organization, Miller has a good shot of accomplishing his goals.

"I think he's a starter right now," Clark said. "I like the way he attacks. He goes right after them. He doesn't waste any time. He always stays ahead in the pitch count. He's a really intense kid out on the mound. You know what you're getting from him every time."