The latest pitcher to emerge from the C’s Chat bullpen is 2018 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Troy Miller.
The Aptos, California native was a two-sport athlete at Soquel High School as he played baseball and basketball but it was on the diamond where he racked up a number of awards. Splitting time as a pitcher/infielder, Miller was named the Santa Cruz County Athletic League Pitcher of the Year in 2014 after winning six of seven decisions with a 2.53 earned run average as junior. He improved to 8-1 with a 1.24 ERA as a senior and also batted .396 with five home runs and 35 RBI. That two-way effort earned Miller the Santa Cruz County Athletic League and Northern California Preps Division III High School Player of the Year honours. Miller was also recognized by Perfect Game as he received an All-America Honourable Mention and made the Second Team All-Region squad.
From Aptos To Ann Arbor
After lettering four times in baseball with the Soquel Knights, Miller had initially committed to remaining on the west coast at Saint Mary’s University but a visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan convinced him to join the Michigan Wolverines instead.
Considering his parents Don and Gretchen and sister Taylor all attended Michigan State University, that made for some interesting talks at the dinner table.
“Let’s just say my parents root for Michigan baseball and that’s about it. No, not really. They’re a good Big Ten family. My twin sister went to Michigan State too so it just made family dinners more fun.”
Miller earned his lone college victory during his freshman season of 2016 and did not allow a run over his first six relief appearances but finished with an ERA near six. He made just seven outings out of the Wolverines bullpen in 2017 and though he allowed just one extra-base hit, he walked seven and struck out only four over seven one-inning relief appearances.
The 2018 season saw Miller chop his ERA down to 3.37 and struck out 29 batters over 34-2/3 innings. Miller felt Wolverines pitching coach Chris Fetter played a big role in his success.
“He was actually a pitching coordinator for the Dodgers before he got to Michigan and he turned down a job with the Phillies to be the pitching coach or the bullpen coach. Just as far as his knowledge, his repertoire go, he bleeds maize and blue. He’s statistically one of the best pitchers for Michigan of all time if not the best. The success they’re having now as far as the pitching staff with some of their guys coming through is all attributed to him.
I’m so thankful that he was able to come coach us my junior year there. I still keep in touch with him and he had me with my weighted ball program this off-season. A lot of my success I can attribute to him. I’m very thankful for that.”
Even though Miller turned in his best performance during his junior campaign, he wishes things could have went better for the Wolverines.
“Last year was kind of a topsy-turvy season. We started 4-and-11 and I think the cool thing that we did was going on a 20-game win streak. It didn’t work out, we didn’t work our way into the (NCAA) tournament. We didn’t play well in the last two weeks of the year but being able to win 20 games straight regardless of what level you’re at was pretty cool.”
Troy Miller did not allow a run in his seven innings at Nat Bailey Stadium in 2018.
Angling For The Pros
Miller would not get drafted so it was off to summer collegiate ball for a third straight summer. After spending 2016 in the New England Collegiate League, Miller opted to return to the Cape Cod League for a second consecutive year. He had a terrific campaign with the Chatham Anglers in which he lowered his ERA to 1.14 and rung up 29 batters against nine walks over 23-2/3 innings.
It appeared at that point that Miller was set to return to Michigan for his senior year but there were some things going on behind the scenes.
“I was a junior so I was finishing up junior year and then went out to the Cape. I hadn’t gotten drafted but I had gotten calls and offered other free agent stuff and ultimately, I was like, ‘Well, I’ll finish my senior year and go off and play in the Cape and see what I can prove.’ Ultimately I just started pitching well and one thing turned into another.”
I had talked to my coaches out on the Cape and they had asked me originally if I was still looking to sign as a free agent and I had said yes but I need it to be for the right amount of money because it’s a little differently going out of the draft. They knew going into it and then it just progressed as the season started going on and I kept pitching well and more and more teams became interested.”
Toronto Blue Jays area scout Randy Kramer from Miller’s hometown of Aptos, California was the one who recommended the team to sign Miller as a free agent after keeping tabs on him in high school.
“He’s eventually the one who called my Dad and was visiting the day of the Cape Cod All-Star Game. It’s just a funny story how full circle it comes. It surprised me, I had no idea he was coming. The next morning, my high school scout from California saw my Dad and said, ‘Hey, is Troy going to sign here or what? What can we do for him to get him to sign?’ and what not so it was just kind of cool how that came full circle in itself.”
Troy Miller struck out the side in his first pro inning against Eugene July 28, 2018.
Miller Time In YVR
After signing his free-agent deal July 25, Miller then arrived in Vancouver where he would need to adjust to playing baseball at the pro level.
“It was, I would say, just a little different. All of a sudden you’re coming from somewhere where you’re just trying to develop or just trying to make a name for yourself on the Cape. Now you’re put in a situation where you’re playing for your livelihood.
But I think one of the best things that happened was the team dynamic in Vancouver. It was great. The staff, just being in the bullpen everyday with something that you looked forward to whether it was playing password or whatever. We got to work. Everyone did what they needed to do and it just made coming to the field and being in Vancouver, an amazing city, just better everyday.”
Miller would make his professional debut against the Eugene Emeralds at Nat Bailey Stadium July 28 where he had to get used to a new mode of transportation to the mound.
“I still remember my first time coming in on the bullpen cart. That alone is an experience. They were playing ‘Thunderstruck’ the first time I pitched there. I just had to, you know, kind of take a little grinning for myself and look around. Just, you know, take in the moment because this game only lasts so long and just taking in little things like that you can take with you for the rest of your time moving forth.”
One thing Miller learned during his first year in pro ball was how to refine his routine.
“There’s a certain way that you have to approach things that put you in a more successful position. I think that taking out things that worked and didn’t work is a routine. That’s probably the biggest thing that stuck with me.”
Troy Miller recorded 15 strikeouts in 13 innings and posted a 3.46 ERA for the C’s in 2018.
Off-Season & Spring Training
After the season, Miller had an off-season training that was mapped out for him.
“I had gone back for a week in October to deal with my trainer in California. I had a four-to-five month offseason program that he put together for me. That’s what went on at Michigan. I work out, throw and repeat every day.”
Miller then went through his first spring training with the Blue Jays.
“It’s an experience, man. You’re in the complex with 200 other guys who are competing for a spot but at the same time, everyone’s pretty supportive and taking it day by day. It’s a long process but ultimately, everyone accepts what it is and I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Miller elaborated on what he and his fellow teammates go through at the minor league complex in Dunedin.
“We’re lucky to get to a ride from (Sean) Wymer every morning so we can catch a little more sleep, waking up at about 6:45 and get to the facility by 7:00. 7:20 to 7:30 we go through breakfast and then as a pitcher, we’ll have lifts after breakfast if we had thrown the day before. If not, individual development then two to three hours on the field and then come in for lunch and then we’ll have a game in the afternoon so it’s just really full days.”
One highlight for Miller was getting to hear from a couple of accomplished Blue Jays pitchers.
“Everyone is in their own groups with all the teams and levels so we get a pretty good mix. A couple of guys we all like to talk to are Pat Hentgen and Paul Quantrill who are mainly with the big league guys but when they come down, they definitely are really open and another two people who we want to pick their brains. Just the way they talk about the game of baseball makes it seem so easy and you could just see why they had all the success they had. It’s just a credit to them with what type of careers they had so it’s just soaking up as much knowledge that they give as possible.”
The pitch mix for Miller consists of three pitches for Miller with a particular focus on his breaking ball.
“I’m throwing a fastball, just a four-seam fastball and then just a changeup and curveball. The curveball is something I’m really working on right now but yeah, a three-pitch mix, a fastball, curveball and changeup. Like I said, the curveball is just something I’ve just been working on and is really going to help me make strides as I keep moving.”
Another point of emphasis for Miller is his pitching mechanics as his delivery can take him well off the mound after his follow-through.
“It’s funny you’re saying that. That’s something that I’ve been working on just a little bit, being more direct toward home plate. I had talked to Cy, Jim Czajkowski, our pitching coach and talked about being strong through my front leg. That’s something I’ve worked on a little more, not spinning off, but outside of that I’m saying I’m just a righthanded pitcher you know. I’m trying not to be too funky but maybe I got to start doing that. You’re just trying to put everything you can into a pitch and it’s on an off, part of it is momentum and part of that is doing something that I shouldn’t be doing. Just controlling it and moving down the mound in a good way.”
Right now, Miller is in extended spring training and he is hoping a return to Michigan with the Lansing Lugnuts is in the cards.
“I’m doing everything that I can to get there, whatever way it goes. Just the opportunity that’s available, to play professional baseball now in front of all my family. I get to live with my sister for a couple of months before she goes to work. It really just doesn’t get better so I’m keeping that goal in mind and the ability to do those things, the dream just keeps getting better.”
Miller will pitch in 2019 as a 22-year old. He will turn 23 on February 23.
A million thanks again to Troy Miller for participating in this latest round of C’s Chat.