Miller, whom the Blue Jays signed to a minor league contract last winter, had been at their alternate training site. The former Tiger, Rockie and National, 33, has recorded a 4.43 ERA/4.35 FIP with 9.15 K/9 and 3.11 BB/9 over 156 1/3 innings in the majors. He most recently tossed 15 2/3 frames as a Nat in 2019 and logged a 4.02 ERA (with a disastrous 7.11 FIP), posted 6.11 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9, and registered a career-worst 19.1 percent groundball rate.
The Blue Jays announced Monday that they’ve signed five players to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training: right-handers Justin Miller, Phillippe Aumont and A.J. Cole (as had been previously been reported in Cole’s case), outfielder Patrick Kivlehan and infielder Andy Burns.
Miller, 32, has the most notable recent experience at the MLB level among the newly known signees. He spent the 2018-19 seasons pitching out of the Nationals’ bullpen and looked to be a savvy bargain find in the first of those two campaigns. The 2018 season saw Miller work to a 3.61 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 33.6 percent ground-ball rate. He was prone to home runs (1.72 HR/9), but Miller’s ability to miss bats and limit walks allowed him to produce a rather solid season.
Things went south in 2019, as Miller’s already homer-prone arsenal was clobbered among a leaguewide home-run surge; in 15 2/3 innings he posted a 4.02 ERA but a 7.11 FIP thanks to five home runs allowed. Those 2019 struggles notwithstanding, Miller has averaged better than a strikeout per inning in 156 1/3 MLB frames.
Aumont, 30, was also in the Jays’ system back in 2015. The Gatineau, Quebec native spent the 2019 season pitching with the Ottawa Champions of the independent Canadian-American Association, where he logged a 2.65 ERA with a scintillating 145-to-23 K/BB ratio in 118 2/3 innings (18 starts). He’s struggled mightily in 43 2/3 MLB innings but has averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in parts of seven Triple-A campaigns. Walks have previously been an issue for him, but his control was exceptional in ’19. Aumont has worked for more as a reliever than a starter in his professional career, but perhaps the Jays could utilize him as rotation depth this time around.
Kivlehan, 30 later this month, had a productive season between Toronto’s Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2019, so it’s not a surprise that they opted to bring him back. He’s a career .208/.302/.401 hitter in 242 MLB plate appearances but a .262/.325/.480 hitter in his Triple-A career. He has experience at all four corner positions.
Burns, another familiar face for Toronto fans, followed up a nice two-year run in the KBO from 2017-18 with a .275/.364/.470 showing with the Jays’ Triple-A club in Buffalo in 2019. With the exception of that two-year stint in South Korea, Burns has spent his entire career in the Blue Jays organization.
Since the conclusion of the regular season, a number of players have elected free agency. That right accrues to certain players who are outrighted off of a 40-man roster during or after the season — namely, those that have at least three years of MLB service and/or have previously been outrighted. Such players that accepted outright assignments during the season have the right to elect free agency instead at season’s end, provided they aren’t added back to the 40-man in the meantime.
We already rounded up the position players. Now, here are the pitchers that have recently taken to the open market, along with their now-former teams (via the International League and PCL transactions pages):
- Austin Adams, RHP, Tigers
- Michael Blazek, RHP, Nationals
- David Carpenter, RHP, Rangers
- Rookie Davis, RHP, Pirates
- Odrisamer Despaigne, RHP, White Sox
- Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Blue Jays
- Brian Flynn, LHP, Royals
- Ryan Garton, RHP, Mariners
- Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Orioles
- Matt Grace, LHP, Nationals
- Deolis Guerra, RHP, Brewers (since re-signed)
- David Hale, RHP, Yankees
- Kazuhisa Makita, RHP, Padres
- Justin Miller, RHP, Nationals
- Juan Minaya, RHP, White Sox
- Bryan Mitchell, RHP, Padres
- Hector Noesi, RHP, Marlins
- Tim Peterson, RHP, Mets
- Brooks Pounders, RHP, Mets
- JC Ramirez, RHP, Angels
- Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Red Sox
- Zac Rosscup, LHP, Cardinals
- Chris Rusin, LHP, ROckies
- Fernando Salas, RHP, Phillies
- Brian Schlitter, RHP, Athletics
- Chasen Shreve, LHP, Cardinals
- Aaron Slegers, RHP, Rays
- Josh Smith, RHP, Red Sox
- Dan Straily, RHP, Phillies
- Pat Venditte, SHP, Giants
- Dan Winkler, RHP, Giants
- Mike Wright, RHP, Mariners
The Nationals outrighted reliever Justin Miller to Triple-A Fresno on Friday after he cleared waivers, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. Miller had the right to elect free agency, but he’ll stay in the organization, according to Zuckerman.
The Nationals designated the right-handed Miller for assignment on Monday, but it didn’t free up a 40-man roster spot because he was already on the 60-day injured list. Shoulder problems have kept the 32-year-old off a major league mound since May 17. In the 15 2/3 innings Miller has thrown this season, he has worked to a 4.02 ERA with 6.32 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a microscopic 19.1 percent groundball rate.
Miller was healthier and more effective in 2018, his first season with the Nationals, as he pitched to a 3.61 ERA with 10.32 K/9, 2.92 BB/9 and a 33.6 percent grounder rate in 52 1/3 frames. The Nationals would have signed up for more of that this year during what has been a trying season for their bullpen. They addressed the unit before Wednesday’s trade deadline by acquiring Roenis Elias, Hunter Strickland and Daniel Hudson.
The Nationals announced today that they have designated righty Justin Miller for assignment. He had been on the 60-day injured list.
Miller, 32, was working back from shoulder issues. Though he was ready to be activated, the club obviously decided that he wasn’t going to be a significant part of the relief mix going forward. The unit has struggled badly as a whole, but is likely going to receive reinforcements in the next two days.
It’s still possible that Miller will end up clearing waivers and landing at Triple-A with the Nats, though he’d have the right to elect free agency instead. He had a strong comeback showing last year in D.C., but never got things going this season.
To open the current campaign, Miller threw 15 2/3 innings of 4.02 ERA ball with 11 strikeouts and four walks. He did rack up 18 strikeouts without a single free pass in his 12 2/3 total rehab frames, but evidently the Nats did not expect that to carry over into the majors.
The Nationals have placed first baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 10-day injured list. He’s dealing with an ongoing bout of plantar fasciitis.
Zimmerman already missed a lengthy stretch owing to the nagging foot issue. The 34-year-old has endured a rough campaign when he has been available, though he had been on a nice run this month. It seems Zimmerman will look to let the flare-up die down and return to action once he’s able to tolerate the pain, as Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic tweets. It stands to reason that Matt Adams will pick up the bulk of the playing time while Zimmerman is down, with Howie Kendrick likely stepping in against lefties.
As for Blazek, he’s now formally back in the bigs for the first time since 2017. He has a solid 28:10 K/BB ratio in 26 Triple-A innings, but has also coughed up 16 earned runs in that span. With the Nats continuing to search far and wide for passable relief pitching, they’ll give the 30-year-old a shot to get his career back on track. Blazek owns a 4.39 ERA through 123 career MLB innings.
Good news for the Nationals – relatively speaking – as X-rays came back negative on Victor Robles’ injured wrist, per Todd Dybas of NBC Sports (via Twitter). He incurred a wrist contusion in last night’s ballgame when Cole Hamels hit him with a pitch in Robles’ second at-bat. It is not yet clear whether Robles will spend time on the injured list, though it seems likely.
Robles – whose 22nd birthday is tomorrow – joins a long list of injured Nats this season, most notably Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, who also missed time this season after being hit by pitches. As a team, Washington has been plunked 22 times season – or about once every other game – tied with the Twins for 4th most in the league.
The timing is a particular bummer for the Nationals, who just got Turner back from injury last night for the first time since the season’s first week. Robles has been one of the more consistent performers for a disappointing Nats offense, hitting .255/.302/.465 with a team-leading eight long balls and eight stolen bases. The approach is lacking at times, he continues to be frustratingly bunt-happy, and more than once mental mistakes on the basepaths have demonstrated his youth and put him on the wrong end of the highlight reel. Still, the Nationals need Robles healthy if they are going to turn things around this season. Michael A. Taylor can replace him defensively, but Michael A. is lost at the plate and there’s not another natural replacement on the 40-man roster (not with Andrew Stevenson also on the IL). The Nats could use Adam Eaton in center with Gerardo Parra and Howie Kendrick seeing more time in the outfield.
Further adding to the injury ledger, Justin Miller appears headed to the injured list for the second time this season with a rotator cuff strain (per Dybas). Miller has pitched well in stretches across 17 appearances this season, going 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA. The ERA may be buoyed by a .256 BABIP, as FIP paints a decidedly different picture for the bearded righty (7.01 FIP). His fastball has been down a tick at 92.2mph from 93.9 mph last year, though his back pain early in the season – and the current shoulder strain – certainly deserve consideration as part of that story. More to the point for Miller, he has struggled to keep the ball on the ground or in the park (2.87 HR/9, 19 GB%), as was the case last night when he surrendered the first of Kris Bryant’s three home runs.
Despite continued struggles from the bullpen ahead of Sean Doolittle, major personnel changes do not appear in the offing, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. With Erick Fedde likely ticketed for the rotation at least for a start, they’ll need another arm in the bullpen as early as before tonight’s game. In a perfect world, Trevor Rosenthal would be ready to contribute, but as Collier notes, his wildness has continued during a rehab stint with Double-A Harrisburg, and it’s hard to imagine trusting him with major league innings at this juncture. Per Mick Reinhard, the host of @MinorConvsPod (via Twitter), Rosenthal pitched on third of an inning in his last outing, giving up one hit, walking one, and throwing two pitches to the backstop. Austin Voth, Tanner Rainey and James Bourque are the most likely 40-man candidates to take Miller’s roster spot.
The Nationals have placed struggling reliever Trevor Rosenthal on the 10-day injured list. He’s said to be dealing with a viral infection.
Earlier today, president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo told reporters (including Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com; Twitter link) that Rosenthal has been dealing with a stomach malady that had spurred significant weight loss and muscle fatigue. After a trip to the doctor today, the decision was made to place him on the IL.
It’d be foolish to pretend that the 28-year-old’s issues on the mound aren’t a factor here, too. He has managed to secure only nine outs in seven appearances, coughing up a dozen earned runs on seven hits and nine walks while recording three strikeouts. Though he’s sitting just below 99 mph with his fastball, Rosenthal is missing the zone far more often than he’s accustomed to and is failing entirely to entice opposing hitters to chase his offspeed offerings.
The Nats have activated Justin Miller from his own IL stint to take the active roster spot. They’ll hope that he can sort things out after a rocky start to the year and help settle a tumultuous relief corps.
Having bought some breathing room for Rosenthal, the organization can then get to work on trying to straighten him out as well. He inked a $7MM deal before the season after missing all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Nationals have placed right-hander Justin Miller on the 10-day IL due to a lower back strain. Righty Austen Williams has been called up to take Miller’s spot on the 25-man roster. Miller has a 5.68 ERA over 6 1/3 frames out of Washington’s bullpen this season, with all of that damage coming from runs allowed in each of his last three appearances. Miller’s absence is yet another problem for the beleaguered Nats bullpen, which has a league-worst 8.12 cumulative ERA this season. The Nationals were seemingly close to a deal with Bud Norris before that rumored contract fell through, so the team is actively looking for ways to upgrade its relief core. There’s certainly opportunity here for a new face like Williams to make an impact, as the 26-year-old had an outstanding Spring Training and has turned in good results out of the bullpen at the minor league level since becoming a full-time reliever last season. Williams made his MLB debut in 2018, tossing 9 2/3 innings over 10 games with the Nats.
Here’s some more injury news from around the league…
- Wade LeBlanc left during the fifth inning of last night’s game due to right oblique strain, and the Mariners southpaw is likely headed to the injured list. (MLB.com’s Greg Johns was among those with the details.) Tommy Milone or possibly Justus Sheffield seem like the top candidates to replace LeBlanc in Seattle’s rotation, though nothing will be confirmed until LeBlanc undergoes an MRI today to access the damage. The 34-year-old LeBlanc has been a solid arm for the M’s since rejoining the team on a minor league deal in March 2018, posting a 3.79 ERA while starting 30 of 35 games. This success resulted in an option-heavy extension between LeBlanc and the Mariners last July.
- Blue Jays righty Ryan Borucki’s bothersome elbow will be re-evaluated in two weeks after the hurler received a cortisone shot, Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi writes. Borucki first experienced the problem in the final week of Spring Training, and hasn’t thrown since a bullpen session on April 3.
- In other Blue Jays injury news from Davidi’s piece, Ryan Tepera has begun a rehab assignment and could potentially join the team as early as this weekend, as the reliever tries to bounce back from his own elbow problems. David Phelps is set to begin bullpen sessions next week as the reliever continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery, with an eye towards a midseason return. Devon Travis is scheduled for baseball activities next week, though a 60-day IL placement in the wake of meniscus surgery means that Travis isn’t eligible to return to the Jays’ big league roster until late May.
The Nationals are set to select the contract of veteran right-handed reliever Justin Miller prior to tomorrow’s game against the Marlins, reports Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. As Janes recently reported, the 30-year-old Miller had a June 15 opt-out provision in his minor league contract. The Nats have a vacancy on their 40-man roster at present, so they’ll need only to clear a space on the 25-man roster, which they achieved by optioning right-hander Erick Fedde back to Syracuse.
Miller enjoyed a solid season with the Rockies in 2015 (4.05 ERA, 38 strikeouts, 11 walks in 33 1/3 innings), but he has little Major League track record outside of that, owning a lifetime 4.99 ERA in 88 1/3 big league frames. That said, one would be hard pressed to suggest that the journeyman is anything less than wholly deserving a promotion to the Majors based on his utter dominance at the game’s top minor league level this season. In 13 2/3 innings with Syracuse, Miller is unscored upon and has turned in a ridiculous 23-to-3 K/BB ratio with a 45 percent grounder rate.
[Related: Washington Nationals depth chart]
Miller’s heater sat in the 93-94 mph range in his previous stints with the Rockies from 2015-16, though Janes notes that his velocity has trended up in the minors this season. And even if he’s struggled to prevent runs in the Majors to this point in his career, he’s never had much issue in the way of missing bats. Miller posted a 13.5 percent swinging-strike rate in that aforementioned 2015 season and carries a career 10.5 percent mark in that regard during his limited MLB time.
The Nats are currently carrying a seven-man bullpen, so the arrival of Miller will push the team to an eight-deep relief corps. He’ll join closer Sean Doolittle and a bullpen unit that also consists of Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, Sammy Solis, Tim Collins, Trevor Gott and Wander Suero for the time being.