March 23, 2010 at 3:08 PM
Our second Q&A of 2010 features Ryne Miller and his unique story of going from a porter in an apartment complex to being ranked the #42 prospect in the Red Sox system. Originally signed by Boston as an undrafted free agent in July 2007 out of Weatherford College, Miller enters his fourth pro season as a full-time starter slated for a return to Double-A Portland, where he finished 2009. The right-hander split last season between High-A Salem and Portland, going 8-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 27 games with Salem and 2-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 14 games with the Sea Dogs. Thanks to Ryne for taking time out of his busy spring training schedule to speak with me.
John Gray: Before you even set out on your current career path, you once gave up baseball to play quarterback at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. What led you to make that decision, and what led you back to baseball?
Ryne Miller: I grew up in West Texas and football is the main sport there, so growing up I always wanted to play football. So when I got the scholarship to ULM, I took it and never thought twice about baseball. They switched me from quarterback to tight end - that was a position I never cared to play. This caused me to stop going to class and stop caring about committing myself to school or sports. I went back home and started working as a porter at an apartment complex and sat out a whole year of school. One hot summer day in Texas, I was working and I looked up at the sun and said, "This is not what I want to do with my life." I called my dad and told him I wanted to go back to school and he was very supportive and helped me to really get back on track.
JG: When you returned to baseball, how did you decide on Weatherford College? Also, they briefly made you into a side-arm pitcher before you decided to switch back to coming over-the-top – what did you think were the pros and cons between the two styles, and what led to you changing back?
RM: My decision to go to Weatherford was easy, it's close to my home and it was a small college. I knew I could concentrate on school and baseball without any distractions. The pitching coach wanted me to throw side-arm, so I really just did what I was told. My team didn't have a side-armer so I set myself apart being the only one. I liked it for the most part, but I just couldn't get my velocity up to where I knew I could. When I went to the Texas Collegiate League, I went back over-the-top and I was throwing harder than I ever had. After that performance, the head coach at Weatherford told me to go back over the top because when school came back around I was going to be a starter. My stuff just played up better as an over-the-top pitcher.
JG: What was the signing process like for you as an undrafted free agent? Did you get interest from teams other than the Red Sox? Had there been much interest heading into the draft, or did things only pick up after your performance in the Texas Collegiate League?
RM: I didn't have great numbers in college and I didn't throw any harder being a side-armer so there was no interest from any team before the draft. After the TCL All-Star Game the Braves called me and made me an offer, as did the Astros and Marlins. In the end, Boston was the place I thought was the right place for me.
JG: Coming into the organization, it seems that you found success at first, but had some struggles in your first full season in Greenville – to what do you attribute those struggles? How did you overcome them?
RM: I came into my first full season extremely over-weight and I was not physically ready for baseball or any other physical activities frankly. After the season I told myself, "if you want this to be your career, you need to dedicate yourself to it and make it as far as you can". I went and hired a personal trainer and worked out everyday until it was time to report for spring training.
JG: I understand that you came into camp in 2009 in tremendous shape - what was your training program during that off-season? How did that carry over on the field? Did you use the same program this past off-season?
RM: I would work out with a personal trainer five days a week. I was just ready for the season when I came into spring training. I gave myself the best possible chance to break camp at the highest level possible and I had a great year in 2009. I hired the same trainer and did the exact same thing this past off-season as well.
JG: Since you moved into the starting rotation late last year, how was starting different than relieving for you, and do you prefer one over the other? When did you know that the club was considering such a move for you?
RM: As a starter, you really get to work with your whole repertoire of pitches and set up hitters, something that you don't do as much out of the bullpen. I don't prefer starting to relieving, the way I see it pitching is pitching, whether it's getting a start or coming later in the game. I love going out there and competing, I just want to be on the hill. The club had talked to me about starting a few times before, but honestly I never thought it was something that was going to happen.
JG: What was your experience like at the Rookie Development program this offseason? What lessons did you take from the program?
RM: Boston is an amazing city and I can't wait to pitch in front of the best fans in baseball. Fenway is a place where no matter what is going on, the fans are always going to be there cheering. Through the rookie program I learned that there is a lot more to baseball than just pitching. You have the media, the fans, and a lot of distractions involved.
JG: Coming into this season, have you done anything differently due to the fact that you will begin the season as a starter?
RM: No, not really, I'm just going to go out there and pitch inning-to-inning and look to build off my success from last season.
JG: We typically ask players to do a self scouting report. I understand that you throw a low 90s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. Is that still your repertoire? Has your move to starting led you to consider any changes or additions? What parts of your game are you looking to improve in 2010?
RM: That's still my repertoire and I don't plan on adding anything to it until I master those three pitches. This season I'm looking to reduce my walks and allow fewer baserunners.
JG: What one teammate has impressed you the most since you joined the Red Sox organization?
RM: He is no longer with the team, but Hunter Strickland really inspired me. He was younger than me, but his work ethic was outstanding and watching him made me want to work my tail off too.