Trever Miller: A class act

Trever Miller’s second stint with the Blue Jays ended up being a short one. Miller was designated for assignment by club after just six appearances. His final pitch was a memorable one for all the wrong reasons — he hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate and Mike Carp sent it over the wall in right field for a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Monday night’s game.

That home run sparked a Mariners rally that also included a solo home run by Casper Wells off right-hander Jon Rauch.  It was yet another tough loss to take for the Blue Jays bullpen in Seattle, where they suffered a similar fate in April.

A little insight for the readers — as a baseball beat reporter one of the most awkward things you ever have to do is walk into a clubhouse following a late-inning collapse. The music is off, the players are in terrible moods and more than any other time you feel like an intruder on their personal space. But that’s part of the job — you have to go in and get the background information that’s required to put a game story together for all of you to read.

Monday night was one of those situations. After talking with John Farrell the next priority was getting a reliever to talk about that fateful eighth inning. The first person on my list was Rauch but he was approached by a reporter and declined to speak with the media. It was at that point that I finally noticed Miller sitting at his locker.

The veteran reliever was already dressed and ready to leave the ballpark. He could have easily avoided the media but instead of going anywhere he sat and waited for us to come and talk to him. In my opinion, that’s the mark of a true professional.

I know what some of you are probably thinking? Why does it matter? Who cares? Well, to a certain extent those are fair comments but the fact is reporters have to do their job and that means getting comments from players no matter the situation. If Miller chose not to talk to the media last night that would have forced us to seek out some of his teammates for comment on the late-inning meltdown.

Miller’s professionalism is all about accountability. He didn’t pass the buck to catcher J.P. Arencibia or anyone else on the team — he took the responsibility upon himself. The 38-year-old also was given a few opportunities during the media scrum to provide excuses for his performance but he was having none of it. Is it hard not pitching on a regular basis he was asked? That might have been the case in St. Louis but he was given an opportunity in Toronto, Miller responded. The ball was flying out of Safeco — did that play a factor? Don’t take anything away from that kid he squared the ball up, Miller answered.

The fact is a lot of baseball players around the game could learn a thing or two from the left-hander. Toronto’s clubhouse is better than most when it comes to talking with the media — during my time as a sports journalist, I’ve been around a lot of other teams that aren’t nearly as accommodating.

The job of a middle reliever can often be one without a lot of glory. When they come in and do their job the pitchers are rarely talked about. When they come in and blow a lead, the pitchers became the main topic of conversation. Miller proved that no matter what, he was going to take responsibility for his pitch, and not force teammates to answer for his mistake. Miller’s final act in a Blue Jays uniform set an example for the young players on the team.

I wasn’t around the team for Miller’s first stint in Toronto but by all accounts he was a class act. He was the exact same way this time around and even though he never really fit in with this club he’s someone you can’t help but root for. Also, don’t confuse this post as a shot at Rauch for not talking with the media. Rauch has been accommodating this season and I think it’s safe to say he deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one considering he underwent an emergency appendectomy this morning. If I was in that much pain I wouldn’t want to talk with reporters either.

As I said, most of the players in Toronto’s clubhouse are accommodating and take the blame when it’s warranted. A few don’t, and while I’m not here to call anyone out, you have probably noticed it in my stories during the season. I always make a point of noting who refuses to talk with the media following a game and will continue to do so because I think it’s an important aspect of their job.

Anyways, here are Miller’s comments from last night’s game and Tuesday’s pregame comments from manager John Farrell.  Also don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter @gregorMLB

Trever Miller:

On the 0-2 pitch to Carp…

“I hung a breaking ball terribly bad. Probably one of the top five worst pitches I’ve thrown 0-2 in a game with a one-run lead. He did what you’re supposed to do with that ball, put it in the seats.

Does it make it harder to execute when you’re not getting regular work…

“I’ve been answering that question a lot this year. I’ve been getting consistent work here, they’ve been doing a better job of getting me in ballgames, that’s not what happened tonight. Simply, I didn’t execute the pitch. I was trying to sweep the ball off the plate, get a swing and miss or set up the next pitch. I never got it there and it cost us the game. That’s my role, you come in and you throw one bad pitch and it can be catastrophic. It’s been a year where I haven’t been getting away with anything. I made a mistake tonight and I paid for it.

Having that increased role in Toronto does it make Monday night even harder to take…

“Yes, when you want to do well for your team, you want to go out and do your job and help win a ballgame, you don’t want to be the guy who intentionally loses the game, definitely the lead, that’s one of the toughest things to handle in any sport, you don’t want to be the goat. You want to be the hero, but sometimes you’ve got to be the goat to be the hero. I’ll be fine. It’s not the first time this has happened to me, I’ll continue to work. It has been a frustrating year for me. But you play long enough you’re going to have those years and you have to keep going through them to enjoy the good years.”

John Farrell pre-game on Tuesday:

On when Rauch first started experiencing pain…

“Prior to the game he felt like he was having a little stomach discomfort and we’ve had some flu-like symptoms go around the clubhouse. Don Wakamatsu was unable to come out yesterday pre-game because of that and precautionary we had him checked, not only by our trainers but by the team physician of the Mariners, and he checked out okay. He felt like he was certainly capable of pitching.

“Then after the game the symptoms seemed to intensify a little bit and at that point we felt like it was time to get him checked and a scan, and every precaution taken. It was revealed that he was having some symptoms with the appendix and ultimately where it had to be removed this morning.”

On the fan support Toronto receives in Vancouver…

“It’s great to see, anytime you have that kind of following. Certainly with the proximity to Vancouver and other Western territories here in Canada, yeah you’re more readily accessible to them.

“To see the following and certainly Brett’s addition to the roster has something to do with that. But in general, I think just the overall perception of the team, where the team is headed, where the roster has turned over and evolved. These are reasons why people are attracted to see it in person.”

On Luis Perez being the main lefty out of the bullpen…

It’s probably going to depend where we’re at in the lineup, the ability to control the running game, what the lineup looks like … But I wouldn’t put Luis just in a left-on-left situation or role. He has shown the ability to go through the lineup once, where it has been one-plus, two-plus on occasion. He would be the first lefty to go to in a key spot.

On Henderson Alvarez…

“Players reinforce your view on how they go out and consistently handle situations and Monday night was no different than his debut against Oakland. After the second inning, even by his own admission, he has able to get the ball down into the strike zone. He used his changeup a bit more after the second inning, which even though he has mid-90s velocity with some very good sinking action, he is going to need that pitch.”

“For 21 years old, and coming straight out of Double-A, he is handling himself very well. I think in that five-plus innings of work there really was two balls that were hit with any authority … It’s not like balls were being rocketed all over the ballpark.”

On Brandon Morrow’s return to Seattle…

“I think any player that comes back to their original organization I think there’s going to be some added, maybe some adrenaline, maybe some emotion. But I think that all that Brandon has gone through, two years after the trade, he’ll go out and pitch like he’s capable of and how he’s certainly done to date.

“I know one thing, he’s very familiar with that mound and the setting in this ballpark. we need a solid performance from him.”

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