Miller mutes Braves' big bats in stellar MLB debut

May 24th, 2023

ATLANTA -- Two hours before first pitch,  sat inside the visiting dugout at Truist Park. Miller was set to make his much-anticipated Major League debut, but he took time to soak it all in.

Once Miller took the mound for the first time as a big leaguer, the fiery personality everyone raved about was on full display. The talented right-hander made sure to leave quite the first impression following five innings of one-run ball in the Dodgers’ 8-1 win over the Braves on Tuesday night.

“It feels great. I was very fired up going into it,” Miller said. “I mean, that’s a great lineup. You have to stay confident out there. It’s easy for a lot of guys to fold. As rough as that first inning was -- they put a few barrels on me -- you’ve got to stay in the moment, stay where my feet are, keep executing pitches, stay in the zone.” 

Miller, the No. 19-ranked prospect in baseball and the top pitching prospect in a talented Dodgers organization, had over 20 friends and family members in attendance for a night he’ll never forget. It’s what he dreamt of as soon as the Dodgers made him their first-round selection in the 2020 Draft out of Louisville.

Miller did, however, acknowledge that he was “very nervous” despite trotting out on the mound with confidence. Some of that had to do with the natural emotions of pitching in your first big league game. Other factors included facing Spencer Strider, one of the early favorites to win the National League Cy Young Award, and a stacked Braves lineup.

Maybe Miller never saw it happening this way. Maybe the nerves were at an all-time high. But the stage didn’t seem to faze the young right-hander one bit, as he struck out five over his five innings.

“He was really impressive,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I thought he showed a lot of poise tonight. Did a great job of managing his emotions, adrenaline. He showed just enough attitude ... and a little edginess, and just competed. For him to get through five was a big boost.”

The scouting report on Miller this early in his career is that he’s going to light up the radar gun with a powerful four-seam fastball. That was indeed the case, as Miller hit 100.1 mph on the first pitch of his career against Ronald Acuña Jr., forcing a groundout to third base. In fact, nine of Miller’s first 19 pitches were four-seamers, nearly all of them coming in at or above 100 mph.

But the Braves’ offense was waiting on Miller’s four-seamer and was able to score a run in the first on a Sean Murphy single and an Austin Riley double, both coming against the heater. Impressively enough, however, that’s when Miller’s maturity and competitiveness kicked in.

Miller turned to his other three pitches -- slider, changeup, curveball -- to settle in nicely. He worked through traffic in the third and fourth, but was able to make pitches when he needed to in order to hold the Braves to just one run. Miller got five of his 10 swings and misses on the slider and curveball.

“The [fastball] is what stood out, but he had a good feel for his secondary pitches, as well,” said Braves first baseman Matt Olson, who struck out twice against Miller. “You see a guy coming up with an overpowering fastball, you don’t know if he’s just going to be a guy up there just throwing hard. But that wasn’t the case.” 

Miller’s promotion to the Majors likely came a few weeks or months before anyone anticipated. Even Miller admitted he was surprised to get the call. The right-hander was sidelined all spring with a right shoulder injury. He made just four starts with Triple-A Oklahoma City and was hit hard in two of them.

But with scheduled to miss at least the next two weeks and  going on the 60-day injured list with another right forearm injury, the Dodgers are going to trust Miller and No. 4 prospect  to hold it down in the rotation. 

The Dodgers have been waiting on Miller and Stone to make their debuts for a few seasons now. They were two big reasons why the Dodgers didn’t feel they needed to make splashy offseason signings in the rotation. The time has come for them to prove them right. They did just that over the last two nights in Atlanta.

“I’m thankful they called my name,” Miller said. “They could have called a lot of other names. I’m very honored they called on me.”