It's been 56 days since Bisons ace Adam Miller has started a game with the intention of making a good-sized dent in the box score.
Nursing a sprained tendon above the middle joint in a finger on his pitching hand since May 12, Miller has only appeared in three games since, pitching just 4 2/3 innings.
But today Miller takes the mound with a four-inning, 65-pitch game in mind for his first solid start since that May game with Rochester.
Miller's start comes at a good time for both the Herd and the hurler. After watching Saturday's starter Jeremy Sowers go seven innings, giving up five runs in a 6-1 loss to Durham, Miller, back in his comfortable starting role, should be ready to dazzle as usual this afternoon.
"I'm kind of glad to be back starting," Miller said. "It's kind of a different mentality as far as going out there and working on everything instead of just throwing everything hard, trying to get people out real quick."
Miller was 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven starts before he went down with the injury. In his first two rehab appearances Miller held his opponents hitless in three total innings. In his final tune-up on Monday night, hitting 99 on the radar gun, Miller was tagged for three earned runs on five hits through 1 2/3 innings by Rochester, although he was the victim of some questionable defense behind him.
With today's start coming just before the All-Star break, the big question for Miller is not whether he will be able to return to form as the Bisons' ace. The question is will he be around to be that ace.
Saturday in Toronto, Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge speculated on a shakeup in the club's bullpen. Indians reliever Fernando Cabrera is making a case for bringing Miller up; in his last 11 innings, Cabrera's allowed nine hits, three earned runs and five walks. Without a trade over the break to strengthen the Indians struggling relief corps, Miller could likely be called up to provide middle relief.
"We're trying to figure out what the best thing is to do," Wedge told MLB.com. "We're taking a good long, hard look at our bullpen right now."
Prior to last night's game, Miller seemed amenable to any decision Wedge and the Indians make regarding his time in the big leagues this year.
"Maybe the bullpen's where I'll be but I mean I don't know," Miller said. "Right now [the Bisons are] putting me back in the starting role and that's what I'm going to focus on, but if something happens where they don't get a reliever for the bullpen up there and they want me to go up there, that's fine. Whatever is my best chance to get up there this year then that's what I'd like to do."
Several of the Herd's hot hitters saw their streaks end Saturday. Outfielder Brad Snyder, leading the club with a nine-game streak, went 0-3 with three strikeouts. Also coming to an end was first baseman Ryan Mulhern's latest eight-game tear after an 0-3 performance. Jonathan Van Every saw his snapped at seven games while Andy Marte extended his hit streak to eight games.
Today's game will be the last for the Bisons at Dunn Tire Park until July 20 as the Herd heads out of town after the All-Star break on an eight-game road trip. During the trip the Bisons will finish the season series with Durham before heading to Charlotte for four games with the Knights.