Meet 'The Reaper': A's rookie takes on new persona

May 25th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- Following ’s two scoreless innings in the first game of a doubleheader against the Rangers on May 8, NBC Sports California play-by-play announcer Chris Caray experimented with a nickname for the A’s flamethrowing rookie closer.

“The Reaper!” Caray exclaimed. “Continues to haunt Major League hitting!”

On Tuesday, when Miller sealed his ninth save of the year in a 5-4 series-opening win over the Rockies at the Coliseum by firing a 103 mph fastball past Ezequiel Tovar, Caray again busted out the moniker.

“The Reaper!” said Caray. “Freezes the Rockies in Game 1!”

The Reaper appears to have stuck. The nickname drew rave reviews on social media. Most importantly, Miller himself is a fan.

“I like it,” Miller said. “I actually had a buddy in college whose nickname was ‘The Reaper’ also. But his was because he worked so slow.”

There is nothing slow about Miller. Entering Saturday, his 100.9 mph average fastball velocity ranks highest in the Majors. His 22 strikeouts on 100-plus mph pitches are the most of any reliever.

Before his career-high scoreless streak was snapped on Thursday at 19 1/3 innings, Miller became the first reliever in the Modern Era (since 1901) with a 15-game stretch of no runs allowed, 40-plus strikeouts and fewer than five walks. He was just the 30th pitcher in A’s franchise history with at least 15 consecutive scoreless outings.

It’s the type of dominance that deserves to be recognized, and why Caray was so adamant about finding a nickname for Miller.

“He’s quite possibly the best pitcher in the game right now,” Caray said. “He’s just got incredible stuff, and his story is great, too.”

Caray workshopped a few different names on his own that could match Miller’s calm yet imposing demeanor on the mound before settling on ‘The Reaper.’ His TV broadcast partner, former A’s pitcher Dallas Braden, has been calling Miller ‘The Soul Snatcher’ throughout the season.

“We know him as a person that he’s not high energy or this monster,” Caray said of Miller. “I was thinking. Phantom doesn’t sound good. But I wanted something where you know he’s there. And when he comes, it’s like you’re seeing a ghost. ‘The Reaper’ can be an apparition. It can be a person taking a soul.”

Given the new name, Miller has already received plenty of feedback on social media from fans suggesting he switch his walkout song to “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

“All the people that message me with a song I should use is usually that,” Miller said. “Wild Thing, or the Undertaker theme.”

For now, Miller plans to stick with “Burn it to the Ground” by Nickelback.

As for his preference between Caray’s ‘The Reaper’ or Braden’s ‘The Soul Snatcher,’ Miller is open to both.

“Whatever is flowing off the tongue,” he said.