Andrew Miller was demoted to Triple A New Orleans this morning while Josh Johnson was sent home with the flu. Though unrelated, the two developments impact the Marlins' rotation plans. Miller won't be in it and there's an outside chance Johnson won't be the Opening Day starter depending on how long it takes him to get over his illness.
But let's start first with Miller. The decision to send the tall lefty down to the minors didn't exactly come as a tremendous surprise. He has not pitched well enough this spring, or consistent enough at any time in his brief, big-league career, to warrant one of the five spots in the rotation. And Miller knows it.
"Obviously, it's been frustrating," Miller said of his wildly erratic career so far. "I want to figure it out as soon as I can. It's a game of making adjustments and figuring things out. I realize I'm still only 24 years old right now, and I think there's still plenty of time to figure it out. I'd like to think nobody can question my effort as far as making adjustments and figuring it out. it's just one of those things that hasn't come easy for me."
High expecations have always shadowed Miller, who was a first-round draft pick for the Detroit Tigers and a key figure in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade. He has gone 14-21 with a 5.50 ERA in the majors -- hardly glowing numbers for someone of his stature.
"Once they put that uniform on, for me, it doesn't matter whether they're a No. 1 pick, or iif it's a blockbuster trade that we traded somebody for Babe Ruth," said manager Fredi Gonzalez. "They're major league baseball players and we evaluate them under those circumstances."
With Miller officially out of the picture on the major league side, the Marlins rotation is all but set, with Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Clay Hensley expected to hold down the five spots. Hensley, the biggest surprise of the spring for the Marlins, will make his first spring training start on Saturday. Rick VandenHurk and Hayden Penn are only marginal starting candidates at this point.
Question is, who will start the April 4 season opener in New York? Johnson is still that guy, but his illness could change those plans. If he doesn't get well soon, there's a chance Johnson could get pushed back and Nolasco take his place at the front end of the rotation.
"If it takes him three days like it's done everybody else (who has been sick this spring), we might have to do something there," Gonzalez said of the opener. "But let's not get ahead of ourselves."