It's been a long and winding road for former first-round pick Andrew Miller. But the path to the big leagues might finally be straightening out.
Miller combined with Jupiter relievers Peter Andrelczyk and Corey Madden to toss the first no-hitter in Hammerheads' history Thursday. He struck out six and walked six in the 4-0 victory over the Palm Beach Cardinals.
"It wasn't a pretty no-hitter by any means," Miller said. "A lot of things were hit right at our guys. I certainly got in my fair share of jams. It was one of those days where things just went our way."
The 24-year-old left-hander cited the error given to Hammerheads third baseman Jake Smolinski on Tony Cruz's leadoff liner in the sixth inning as an example.
"It was a tough error," Miller said. "It bounced over to the shortstop, so they gave it an error. You need things like that to go your way if you're ever going to get a zero."
Miller retired the first six batters he faced, before giving up a leadoff walk to Alex Castellanos in the third. Miller later helped the baserunner get caught in a rundown and shortstop Paul Gran eventually applied the tag on Castellanos for the first out of the inning.
The Cardinals threatened again in the fourth as Matt Carpenter drew a walk from Miller and took second on a wild pitch. After Richard Racobaldo walked, Miller plunked Xavier Scruggs to load the bases. But Castellanos grounded out to end the inning.
When Miller struck out Scruggs and Cruz was caught stealing to end the sixth, the 2006 first-round pick thought he had something left in the tank for another frame.
"I tried to ask for another inning, but for me right now, the focus is kind of selfish," Miller said. "I had some things to work on, and I wasn't looking at the number of hits on the board."
After making 70 Major League appearances between Detroit and Florida, Miller was supposed to begin the season at Triple-A New Orleans so he could work on his mechanics.
"I missed some time, so they sent me to Jupiter just to get some time in extended (spring training) and everything didn't quite go as planned," Miller said. "Hopefully I'll get in a position to get called back up (to New Orleans) soon.
"I think obviously it's tough," he added. "There were times when I felt comfortable at the Major League level. It's been a tough couple of years, and I've dealt with some stuff to get back. I think it's part of the process. It's never an easy game and there is such a small margin for error."
Miller was one of the biggest prizes the Marlins received by trading Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in December 2007. The transaction put Miller under the spotlight.
"I definitely think I didn't handle it perfectly," he admitted. "I like to think it didn't matter too much to me, but I probably was trying too hard and it put a lot on my shoulder during that time."
Since the trade, the 6-foot-7 southpaw suffered injuries to his ankle and his oblique muscle, but may have turned a corner with his latest performance.
"I'm fully healthy right now," Miller said. "It's as healthy as I've been in a long time. Now that I'm healthy, I feel as though I should be pitching better.
"For me personally, it is a step in the right direction to get where I want to be."
Miller relied heavily on his fastball Thursday, and he said he likes to use it when he's ahead and behind in the count. He also utilized his breaking ball, which he throws from a lower arm slot and calls "kind of slurvy."
He had never pitched in a no-hitter before Thursday's game, but was in the bullpen for Detroit when Justin Verlander tossed his in June 2007.
"That's a highly different level," Miller said. "That was unreal. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to see anything like that again. His stuff was that good that night. He hit 102 (mph) in the ninth inning on the stadium scoreboard."
After Miller left, Andrelczyk found himself in a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. Madden got Scruggs on a comebacker to retire the side and then finished the game with a perfect ninth.
Miller's only previous start this year was April 30, when he allowed three earned runs over 2 2/3 innings for Jupiter (11-16) against the Cardinals.
"It was a lot of fun and I can't praise the defense and offense enough," he said.