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Dodgers give up on left-hander Miller

Dodgers give up on lefty Miller

SAN DIEGO -- The release of Greg Miller on Monday was another unfortunate chapter in a phenom story gone awry.

The move was made as much to clear a 40-man roster spot as to pull the plug on Miller, and he might even be re-signed to a Minor League contract in a few days.

But Miller once was considered to be what Clayton Kershaw is now -- a potentially dominant left-handed starter. He was paid a $1.2 million bonus by the Dodgers when they drafted him in 2002 out of Esperanza High School in Anaheim with a compensation pick for losing free agent Chan Ho Park.

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Talk about on the fast track, Miller was still 18 in 2003, one year out of high school, when he went 11-4 with a 2.49 ERA at Class A Vero Beach, then was 1-1 with a 1.01 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings at Double-A Jacksonville. But he was shut down at the end of the 2003 season with shoulder discomfort that had not cleared up by the next spring.

The next Spring Training he underwent surgery to remove a bursa and scar tissue from the acromio-clavicular joint at the top of his left shoulder, but he continued to experience discomfort and never pitched in a game that season.

Problems continued in 2005 and he had a second procedure to shave the tip of the clavicle to resolve an impingement that sidelined him until midseason.

He returned and pitched effectively at three levels. Promoted to Double-A to start the 2006 season and toying with a sidearm delivery, he dominated with a 0.79 ERA in 11 appearances and was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he struggled with his control, walking 33 in 37 innings. His 4.38 ERA was the highest of his career.

And he's never been able to master his command. In 2007-08, despite insisting he was completely healthy, Miller walked 152 in 130 1/3 innings. Back to three-quarter delivery, the story was the same this Spring Training and the Dodgers finally couldn't justify his tying up a roster spot.

"We just felt he hasn't moved forward," manager Joe Torre said.

Miller once was one of the Dodgers' dual pitching phenoms. The other was Edwin Jackson, now a starter with Detroit. In 2004, they were ranked 1-2 by Baseball America among Dodgers prospects.

Of the organization's Top 10 prospects that year, six (Jackson, Franklin Gutierrez, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Koyie Hill and Reggie Abercrombie) have played in the Major Leagues. But not Miller.

To free up another roster spot, the Dodgers placed Claudio Vargas on the 60-day disabled list with elbow tendinitis.

Vargas has a potential $400,000 in incentive bonuses he would receive if he's on the active roster at various points in the season or on the disabled list with anything other than an elbow injury. The Dodgers will take the position that he's not eligible for the bonuses with this injury.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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