Tigers promote righty Miller to bolster bullpen
Rookie outfielder Collins optioned to Triple-A Toledo after slow start
DETROIT -- Two years to the day after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow, Justin Miller made his Major League debut against the Angels, tossing two innings of one-hit ball.
"It's kind of a weird coincidence," Miller said. "Just getting called up, being able to call my family and have everybody in my family ecstatic, it's just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. It's unreal."
Miller added that the biggest difference he observed from transitioning from the Minor Leagues to Detroit on Friday was how bright the lights shone.
"I thought I could see every little blade of grass out there," he said.
Earlier Friday, the Tigers announced the transaction, their first of the season, which was a depth move for a taxed and tired bullpen. Detroit optioned rookie outfielder Tyler Collins to Toledo. For Friday, at least, Detroit went with eight relievers and three bench players.
Miller, who pitched a perfect sixth before trotting back out for another inning of the Tigers' 11-6 loss, gave the bullpen a fresh arm after five relievers threw Thursday afternoon and four Wednesday night, all ahead of Drew Smyly's first start of the season Friday night. Smyly lasted only three innings, guaranteeing another long night for the bullpen and giving Miller a chance to debut on his first day with the big league club.
"I just wanted to calm my nerves, go out there and throw strikes," Miller said.
While neither manager Brad Ausmus nor pitching coach Jeff Jones had a pitch count set for Smyly, both made it clear they would have to be cautious with him, because he hasn't been stretched out as a starter since the end of Spring Training -- nearly three weeks ago. He threw 51 pitches on April 4 and 49 pitches on April 9. Friday night, he labored, throwing 82.
Miller signed with Detroit last fall following his release from the Rangers organization.
The hard-throwing 25-year-old had a rough Spring Training, making him an early cut from camp, but he recovered nicely in Toledo. Miller threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings for the Mud Hens, allowing three hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
Collins made the Opening Day roster as a reserve outfielder, making the jump from Double-A Erie. He was supposed to give Detroit a left-handed bat off the bench and a potential platoon partner with Rajai Davis in left field, but he made just three starts over the first 12 games of the season. The 23-year-old went 2-for-14 with a walk and three strikeouts.
"Rajai got hot," Ausmus said. "He's hit the ball as well as anybody on the team, maybe the best. And the schedule didn't help."
By rule, Collins must stay in the Minors for at least 10 days before he's eligible to be recalled, unless the Tigers have to place a player on the disabled list. So if Detroit wants to add a bench player once its bullpen eventually gets some rest, it'll have to recall somebody else. Ezequiel Carrera could be a candidate, as could waiver pickup J.D. Martinez. Either would have to be added to the 40-man roster, but the Tigers have an open spot for that.