I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust
One question I keep getting in the wake of yesterday's Adam Miller news is: How is this a career-threatening situation? Even if Miller has to have the surgery, he can still return next year, right?
My first reaction is an emotional one: You obviously aren't familiar with Adam Miller's luck, are you?
My second is more of a medical one. "Career-threatening" was the grim term used by head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. In the four years I've been covering this team, I don't believe I've heard Soloff use those words about any injury or any surgery. That's because there is generally a documented precedent for each injury and each surgery, and, therefore, a clearer idea of the chance of recovery.
There is no precedent for the surgery Miller would have performed. It's a complicated one, using a tendon from the wrist to replace and act as a ligament in the middle finger. There is no guarantee that it would work. Miller might still not be able to bend the tip of his finger. And if he's not able to pitch with that predicament now, there's no reason to believe he'd be able to pitch with it a year from now.
If the surgery does work, and Miller can again bend his finger, you're talking about the loss of another year of development. This kid is a prospect, not a proven Major Leaguer. We have seen him face "Major League" competition once -- and that was back in 2007, before all this finger stuff began to get in the way. And though the results were positive, that was in an exhibition environment, where you take the results with a grain of salt. Miller has great stuff, but so did Fernando Cabrera. There are no guarantees in this sport, even for a player with Miller's talent. And the more time he spends in rehab, the less time he has to develop into a quality Major League pitcher. Additionally, Miller would be at risk for more setbacks such as the ones he's endured here in camp, because the finger is such a narrow and sensitive space.
Can Miller's finger, with proper treatment, once again begin bending on its own, without surgery? It doesn't look that way, based on what Soloff told us. He made it sound as though Miller was fortunate to progress as well as he did following surgery last May 27. The stress of Spring Training preparation on Miller's finger caused another breakdown of that pulley system, and surgery appears to be the only way to correct the problem.
So, is it definitely career-ending surgery? No. Is it career-threatening? Most definitely. We're talking about unchartered waters and a great risk -- a risk the Indians hope to avoid as Miller attempts to reinvent himself on the mound over the course of the next week.
In an unrelated, programming note, that's it for me today. I'll get you caught up on all the "excruciating minutia" from Tribe camp on Friday.