TORONTO — The next wave of top talent in the Mariners’ heavyweight pipeline is on its way to the Majors, as the club plans to call up the right-hander Bryce Miller From Double-A Arkansas, according to a source.
Miller, ranked No. 2 in Seattle and No. 88 in the MLB Pipeline, will start Tuesday’s Opening Series against the A’s in Oakland, and will remain in the Mariners’ rotation for the foreseeable future.
After a strong spring but mostly uneven start to the regular season, Miller could mark Seattle’s 2023 replacement for Robbie Ray, who suffered a left forearm strain in his first start. Ray learned last week that the injury would require season-ending surgery.
The Mariners used Chris Flexen in that spot, but he struggled to a 10.58 ERA in four starts, which led to a transition back to the bullpen, while Easton McGee, who made his first MLB start Saturday in Toronto, hit 15 in IL on Sunday with a left forearm strain.
Enter Miller, who was always destined to contribute in 2023 — but when will depend on circumstances.
Miller hasn’t stunned since strong spring training, but scouts have suggested his elements are still working and that dominant numbers may be more indicative of working on specific developmental points in certain sequences, such as pitches in specific numbers.
Opposing hitters have a streak of .281/.306/.573 (.879 OPS) against Miller with five homers in four starts, for which he has carried a 6.79 ERA. His batting numbers also fell, with 18 in 19 2/3 innings.
Among the next wave of young Mariners pitchers, Miller was the obvious choice over Emerson Hancock, whose development has been slower due to injuries early in his career, and Brian Waugh, who only has 74 starts, due to injuries.
Seattle would also turn around and push its other starters back to allow Miller to make his debut against last-place Oakland in place of the 2022 World Series champion Astros on Friday, when he was scheduled to take the next spot.
A fourth-round pick from Texas A&M in 2021, Miller made the biggest jump in the organization at 22, climbing three Minor League affiliates while jumping from No. 24 to No. 2 in the Mariners prospect rankings.
Miller was also a striking machine, with 163 in 133 2/3 innings pitched, an average of 30%. Most telling, his stuff held up through the rigors of 27 starts, and he never missed a beat, which is a byproduct of a strict arm-care routine, he said. He had the chance to make a big-league impression in spring training this year, and he did just that in four Cactus League appearances.
“I thought my stuff was good enough to throw to big league hitters—just go out and prove it,” Miller said in March.
It is Miller’s fortification of minor pitches, a curveball and a slider that brought him to the doorstep of MLB.
“He’s got it all, with a change up front,” said head coach Scott Servier in the spring. “He’s really good. I definitely think it’s an entry-level mix based on his delivery, his stuff, his demeanor, all [profile].
“I think he’s a starter player. That doesn’t mean he can’t get off the playing field, but I see him as a starter.”
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Miller, the Mariners traded reliever Diego Castillo to Triple-A Tacoma after passing him through waivers. Castillo could have refused outright and become a free agent due to more than three years of MLB service time, but doing so would have forfeited the remainder of his $2.95 million salary for 2023.
Acquired at the 2021 trade deadline, Castillo has gone downhill this year, with a 6.23 ERA in 8 2/3 innings — during which he walked as many batters as he struck out (seven) while also surrendering two homers.
Castillo also saw a 1.6 mph drop in his average fastball speed, to 94.2 mph. Ideally, he’s working through the kinks in the Tacoma and contributing later this year.
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