We could not fit everything into Thursday's Independent Baseball Insider, our primary weekly outlet, so this is a potpourri of other thoughts heading into Mother's Day weekend.
What a delight to pick up the telephone this week, and hear the southern voice of Matt Miller. I knew the sidearming righthander who started his pro career in Greenville, MS, in the Independent Big South and Texas-Louisiana Leagues (1996-98) and worked his way into Colorado's bullpen when he was 31 in 2003, had been in Boston's minor league camp, but I could not find him on a roster when the season started. I was fearful his professional days might be over, or at least that his major league career might have stopped at exactly 100 appearances even though he has a nifty 2.72 ERA and a 6-1 record. All but four of those appearances were with Cleveland.
Miller joyfully caught me up to date with the fact the Red Sox had kept him in extended spring training in Fort Myers, FL, and an appearance precisely one week ago today (May 2) got Pittsburgh interested in the now 36-year-old. Boston gave him a choice of staying in Florida and waiting for a roster spot somewhere or accepting a trade to the Pirates.
"I've been healthy," Miller said, with his flexor tendon (elbow) problems resolved. "I feel I've still got something (to offer). If I didn't feel I could get big-league hitters out..." You can finish the sentence yourself.
Miller debuted with Pittsburgh's Triple-A Indianapolis Indians Sunday, getting four outs (three of them on strikeouts) before leaving his 33rd and final pitch of the game "out over the plate. I probably went to the well too much with the slider." Bingo, a three-run home run to a right-handed hitter, where the 6-foot-3 hurler normally is at his toughest. He came back with two scoreless innings and two more strikeouts at Richmond (Braves) Tuesday, saving a 3-1 victory.
The next step? Maybe it will be in the majors with the Pirates. Wouldn't that be nice.
OFFERMAN IN MEXICO
In case you have been wondering where longtime major league infielder Jose Offerman is this season, the year after that ugly bat-swinging incident in the Atlantic League, he is hitting .355 for Rojos del Aguila de Veracruz in the Triple-A Mexican League. The 39-year-old switch-hitter has been stuck on six homers and 23 RBI for a while, adding to neither total in at least 10 games although he did single and double in four trips Thusday.
Young Joe Thatcher of San Diego, the Indy-bred lefthander out of the Frontier League (River City, O'Fallon, MO), took his fourth loss in as many decisions Thursday at Atlanta. But then it seems virtually all of the Padres are struggling with only 12 wins in 35 games. Thatcher is continuing to get work, but his earned run average is up to 6.75 after surrendering three hits and a walk while facing five hitters in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game.
WICHITA OPENS WITH 5,874
One day after its scheduled American Association debut was rained out, the Wichita Wingnuts as well as American Association brass should have big smiles today because the first Independent Baseball game in the former Class AA ballpark in central Kansas saw 5,874 patrons show up. The Wingnuts sent fans home happy with a 7-4 win over Sioux City, IA.
It wasn't nearly as glorious for El Paso's opener, spoiled by a record number of runs for the three-year-old league. Visiting Shreveport, LA went into the record books with a 21-5 romp. The other new team, Grand Prairie, TX, was on the short end of a 10-3 decision before 5,092 at St. Paul, MN.