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03/04/09 4:25 PM ET

Injury limiting Miller's chances at job

Seeking Tribe's final 'pen spot, righty hindered by inflamed finger

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- If Adam Miller is going to prove to the Indians that he's ready to join their big league bullpen, he'll only have, at best, four to six Cactus League appearances to do so.

Miller, the Tribe's top pitching prospect and early odds-on favorite to win the last spot in the 'pen, has seen his Major League hopes once again take a big hit because of the ongoing saga involving his inflamed right middle finger.

Scratched from his scheduled appearance in last Friday's game against the Padres and shut down from throwing, Miller, who saw a local hand specialist, will remain shut down for another seven to 10 days, head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said. After that point, the Indians hope to put Miller through an expedited, two-week return-to-throw program that would allow him to get into four to six games at the end of spring camp.

That, of course, is assuming all goes well -- as it rarely seems to go for the oft-injured Miller.

"This definitely puts a dent in [the bid for a job]," Miller said. "But right now, I'm not thinking about that. Getting healthy is all I care about."

Miller's finger first started bothering him in May of '07, when he strained a ligament and missed more than a month at Triple-A Buffalo. Last spring, he didn't appear in any of the Tribe's exhibition games because of a blister that formed on the finger. The blister was a result of the ligament causing his skin to sag against the ball. Miller pitched with the open hole on his finger through six starts at Buffalo before he was shut down and had season-ending surgery in May to repair the ligament strain.

The good news on Miller's finger, according to Soloff, is that the blister has not reappeared. But the inflammation is troublesome enough to prevent him from throwing.

"This is a byproduct of [the past] injury," Soloff said. "We were hoping to find what his envelope of function is and how much volume he can handle. A normal Spring Training volume is too much for him. When he gets back, we'll be overly cautious."

Miller didn't have any setbacks when pitching in the fall instructional league or the Dominican Winter League. The finger soreness began after a healthy dose of spring bullpen sessions and pitchers' fielding practice drills.

The Indians have no way of knowing if this will be a recurring issue for the 24-year-old Miller, but Soloff said the further Miller is removed from his June '08 finger surgery the better his chances will be of avoiding more complications.

"This is such a unique case," Soloff said. "We're in uncharted waters. We're simply hopeful that he doesn't [have more setbacks]."

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