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12/09/09 6:40 PM ET

Pair of surgeries brings bad news for one

Santana should be set at start of season; Miller may be done

INDIANAPOLIS -- The dreaded "s" word -- surgery -- has altered many a top prospect's career.

For Carlos Santana, the surgery he had performed Tuesday to remove a broken hamate bone in his right hand shouldn't derail him from becoming the Indians' catcher of the future.

But for right-hander Adam Miller, who had yet another setback and yet another surgery on his right middle finger, the surgery he had performed last month could spell the end of a once-promising career.

The Indians announced both surgeries Wednesday. Bad news is the only news coming out of one of the Winter Meetings' quietest clubs.

Santana, 23, had been pulled out of his stint in the Dominican Winter League because of the flu bug. When he recovered enough to begin taking batting practice, the soreness in his hand got the best of him. The Indians sent him to hand specialist Dr. Tom Graham in Baltimore, and the surgical procedure was performed to remove the fractured bone.

As a result of the surgery, Santana probably won't be able to pick up a bat for eight to 10 weeks. He might be a little behind at the beginning of Spring Training, head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said, but the Indians are expecting him to be ready by the start of the season.

"We'll update his progress at intervals during Spring Training," Soloff said.

Santana, the Eastern League MVP in 2009 at Double-A Akron, will begin the 2010 season with Triple-A Columbus and could be with the Tribe by year's end.

The 25-year-old Miller, on the other hand, doesn't appear as if he'll ever make it to the Majors. And that's a sad situation for a guy whose blazing fastball was supposed to make him a big league star.

The fickle finger of fate kept getting in Miller's way.

In 2008, Miller was limited to six starts at Triple-A Buffalo because a bum pulley system had created a bad blister which resulted in a porous hole in the middle finger. Miller had surgery to address the issue in May and was shut down for the remainder of the season.

Miller entered '09 in a new relief role, as a result of his limited innings tally the year before. The Indians hoped he could ascend to the Majors in a bullpen role, but he had a setback with the finger during Spring Training, when he lost the ability to bend the tip.

The Indians tried everything they could think of to keep Miller on the mound. They altered his release point in a series of bullpen sessions in Goodyear, Ariz., and Miller was making major strides. But just as he was ready to face live hitters, the soreness in the finger returned, and surgery became inevitable.

Graham performed two surgical procedures on Miller's finger in '09. The first repaired the pulley system, and the second repaired the flexor tendon. In between, Miller had a silicone rod sticking out of his finger. It was in there to prevent scar tissue from forming.

Last month, Miller was in Goodyear, playing catch in hopes of a full recovery, against sizable odds. But the soreness returned, and a fourth surgical procedure was deemed necessary to once again stabilize the flexor tendon reconstruction. It was performed by Graham on Nov. 18.

The Indians have no timetable for Miller, who is undergoing hand therapy near his home in Texas, to return to baseball activities, and that alone speaks volumes. Soloff said public perception that this might spell the end of Miller's career is "not off-base."

General manager Mark Shapiro said the Indians aren't making an immediate decision on Miller's status. He remains on the club's 40-man roster.

"Obviously, we're in unchartered waters with him in general," Shapiro said. "Not many people have experience with the injury. Until he begins throwing again, I don't think we know where we are."

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