Frustrated with failed comeback attempts from shoulder surgery, 51s pitcher Wade Miller decided to take a break from baseball last year, sitting out the entire season.
“I was rehabbing a couple years already and decided to take some time to clear my head and get things right,” said Miller, who started for Las Vegas on Monday at Cashman Field. “It was really tough on me not being able to go out there and pitch, so I took a year off just to relax.
“I took a year off to take a break mentally more than physically. Right now I’m OK.”
Miller, 32, who signed a minor league free-agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays in March, allowed two runs on five hits in five innings Monday, walking one and striking out two in Las Vegas’ 6-5 victory over Colorado Springs (7-4) in 11 innings.
The 51s (3-8) erased two extra-inning deficits to pull out their third win, rallying for a run in the 10th to tie the game 4-4 and scoring twice in the 11th to win.
Russ Adams drilled a game-tying RBI double in the 11th, and Randy Ruiz delivered a game-winning single to right field.
In three starts, Miller has allowed 11 runs on 12 hits in 14 2/3 innings, with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts.
While his numbers aren’t great, the important thing is he’s healthy for the first time in years.
“I feel OK now. I don’t have any pain like I had before, so I can pitch,” Miller said. “I went through the entire spring training and my first (three) starts. It’s the most I’ve pitched in a streak in a few years, since my first injury, so everything’s going all right now.”
Miller, who is 62-46 with a 4.10 ERA in parts of nine big league seasons, was at the top of his game from 2001 to 2003, when he went 45-25 for the Astros and tied a franchise record with 12 straight wins.
But he injured his shoulder in 2004 and hasn’t been the same since, undergoing surgery in 2005 and 2007.
Miller has pitched only 35 1/3 innings in the majors the last three years, and while he doubts he’ll ever regain his form from his days in Houston, he does believe he can be an effective pitcher again in the majors.
“I just need to get my arm strength back,” said Miller, who hit 92 mph Monday on the radar gun. “It’s probably going to take a month or two to get back to full strength. If I can get back two or three more miles on my fastball, I think I’ll be all right.”
Las Vegas pitching coach Dave LaRoche is encouraged by Miller’s progress.
“He’s getting better and better each time out,” he said. “I think he’s still got some life left in him.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354LAS VEGAS 6
COLORADO SPRINGS 5
KEY: Randy Ruiz delivered the game-winning RBI single for the 51s, who erased a 5-4 deficit in the 11th inning.
NEXT: Fresno Grizzlies (LHP Steve Hammond) at 51s (RHP Dirk Hayhurst), 7:05 p.m. today, Cashman Field.