Maroth situation speeds Miller's arrival

Maroth situation speeds Miller's arrival

CLEVELAND -- Andrew Miller's Major League debut is coming even sooner than expected. Mike Maroth's big-league return is going to have to wait.

The Tigers made a slew of decisions on their way out of Jacobs Field on Sunday, and not all of them were roster moves. Most of them revolved around Maroth, whose scheduled start Wednesday has been nixed due to continued tenderness in his surgically repaired left elbow.

Wilfredo Ledezma will start in Maroth's place Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. Maroth will still be recalled from the disabled list, but not until after rosters expand Sept. 1. That left the Tigers needing a second left-hander in the bullpen, so they called up Miller from his brief stint at Class A Lakeland.

In addition, the Tigers swapped reserve outfielders. They sent Brent Clevlen to Double-A Erie and will purchase the contract of Alexis Gomez from Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday to add a left-handed hitter.

The biggest news, and the catalyst for most of this action, was the continued uncertainty surrounding Maroth after surgery in June to remove bone chips from his left elbow. Though Maroth had said his elbow irritation was only minor and an expected part of strengthening his arm back into shape, manager Jim Leyland was waiting for Maroth to tell him he was ready to start.

After the feeling intensified during a side session Sunday morning, Maroth couldn't tell him in good faith he was good to go.

"They already kind of had a decision made up," Maroth said, "but I had the decision to make, too. It just didn't feel good in my bullpen. Yesterday [the elbow] didn't feel real good, but I was hoping that it would feel better in the bullpen. I couldn't go in and say that I was 100 percent. There's too much at stake for me to go out there and have a question mark."

The fact that it still didn't feel well after four rehab outings at Toledo was not a good sign. However, it wasn't nearly bad enough for the Tigers to shut him down. Once he rejoins the active roster, he'll pitch in a relief role.

"I'm right there," Maroth said. "I think that's what makes me the most disappointed and frustrated, that I'm so close. But it's just a matter of going through the process. They told me that after surgery, you're always going to hit bumps in the road. Everything went well up to these last couple starts. Hopefully I can get by them.

"I could be fine on Wednesday. But right now, at this point, I couldn't go in to [Leyland] and tell him I'm going to 100 percent."

Leyland, for his part, had planned for that possibilty, and considered Ledezma and Zach Miner, whose rotation spot Maroth was going to take, as backup options. Because the Yankees have so many quality left-handed hitters in their lineup -- Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Robinson Cano and Johnny Damon among them -- Leyland opted for Ledezma, whose current 17-inning scoreless streak includes 5 2/3 innings in a spot start Aug. 6 against the Indians.

Leyland is calling this a spot start, too, rather than slotting Ledezma into the rotation. He said he'll work the spot each time out on a case-by-case basis according to the opponent and other factors. He's not considering Maroth as one of his options, at least for now.

"I am not planning on Mike Maroth in this rotation the rest of the year," Leyland said. "But it could happen."

As Sunday showed, plans can change. Though the Tigers had planned on bringing up Miller in accordance with his contract, they hadn't planned on doing it until rosters expanded in September. With the Tigers short a lefty reliever, however, he's getting his taste of the big leagues early, and it won't be a token appearance.

"Miller's the guy I wanted," Leyland said. "I don't want anyone taking the attitude that he's the No. 1 pick and he was coming up in September. We're calling him up before September because we think he's the guy. He's not coming up here on a pass."

The Tigers believed in the talent since before June's First-Year Player Draft. They selected the University of North Carolina star with the sixth overall pick knowing he would command a lucrative Major League contract, but believing he could help this season. He arrived in Lakeland earlier this month after signing his deal Aug. 4.

He made his professional debut just eight days ago, but he pitched like somebody who was too much for that level. His two scoreless innings with three strikeouts Saturday night against Fort Myers brought the total for his stint to five scoreless innings on two hits with a walk and nine strikeouts.

"I talked to numerous people in the organization," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said, "and everybody has said that Miller has thrown the ball in an outstanding fashion. They think he can help us right now, and he's in a position where they think he can handle it from a mental perspective. And so we just thought it would be a move that would make sense for us to get another left-hander in the bullpen."

The move, Dombrowski said, had nothing to do with making Miller eligible for the postseason roster. Though players normally must be on the 25-man roster by Aug. 31 to qualify, exceptions are given to teams who have players on the disabled list. Miller hasn't been on the DL, but the Tigers can use him to theoretically take the place of someone who is.

That's a long way off, though. For now, his concern will be pitching in Yankee Stadium.

"I'm going to use him," Leyland said. "I can promise you that. You'll definitely see him in the Yankees series."

Unfortunately, they definitely won't see Maroth there.

"I've done everything I can to be ready," Maroth said. "But it's not on my timing. It's on God's timing. I'll be back when the arm's ready. And when I come back, I want to make sure I'm back."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.