TAMPA, Fla. — Andrew Miller has heard all the talk this offseason about potentially being part of a historically good bullpen.
And while not throwing cold water on the prospect, the lefthander isn’t ready for a coronation either.
“All the excitement about trying to rank us into something or another,” Miller said late Wednesday morning, his voice trailing off. “On paper we look pretty good, but that doesn’t really mean anything.”
GM Brian Cashman, addressing the topic late last week, also steered clear of revving the hype machine.
“Everybody talks about the bullpen, and I understand why, but I’ve been around the block enough to know the baseball season doesn’t always play out the way you anticipate,” Cashman said. “Who knows? Maybe the strength of this team will be the rotation and not the bullpen. That’s why you try to accumulate as much talent as you can.”
The excitement, of course, is the result of adding fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman to the mix that already includes Miller, who went 36-for-38 in save chances with a 2.04 ERA last season, and Dellin Betances, who posted a 1.50 ERA as the setup man.
Chapman, who routinely surpasses 100 mph with his fastball, will take over as closer, with Miller and Betances setting up for him in some order.
“I’m just curious to see him pitch,” Miller said of Chapman, acquired from the Reds in December. “I’ve been in the American League, I haven’t seen him pitch at all except on TV. I’m looking forward to just kind of standing behind a bullpen and seeing what it looks like.”
While the bullpen looks terrific at the end, there is some questions about the middle innings, and the unit took a hit in the offseason with righty Adam Warren being sent to the Cubs in the Starlin Castro deal and lefty Justin Wilson being shipped to the Tigers for minor-league starters Chad Green and Luis Cessa.
Cashman made the latter move to shore up his rotation options in Triple-A as there is not much starting depth in the system.
Wilson had a solid year, posting a 3.10 ERA in 74 appearances. Among those competing for bullpen spots will be young righthanders Nick Rumbelow and Nick Goody and lefthander Jacob Lindgren.
“Kind of surprised but I don’t really keep up with player moves,” Miller said of the Wilson trade. “It’s not my job to know. We traded him for two minor-league guys. I’ve never heard of them. They might be great. I don’t keep up with Baseball America anymore, but that’s for Cash to decide. If he thinks it’s going to make the team better this year, next year, whatever, that’s what he gets paid to do. Trust what they are doing. He brought me in so I can’t complain about his job. That’s over my head and not something I’ll stick my nose into.”
As for his expectations in 2016, Miller said he’d like to avoid the disabled list. The reliever missed a month last season with a forearm strain.
“I’d like not to miss a month of the season, making all my appearances, being with the team all year and pitching more in the playoffs,” said Miller, who struck out 100 batters over 61 2⁄3 innings. “Hopefully that’s everybody’s goal . . . I think if I can be more consistent and throw more strikes and get ahead more often I’ll be even better [than in 2015]. But I certainly was pretty happy with the way I pitched last year and if I can be a little bit better I’ll be happy with that.”