Ten long seasons of riding Bull Durham coaches has become a pain in the ass for former minor league pitcher Josh Miller.
But none of those trips, from Batavia or Bridgeport or even a couple of cities in Venezuela and another in China, can compare to the one he took as a coach in Major League Baseball.
His final outing was in early November, atop a sightseeing bus with his family, as the city of Houston celebrated the Astros’ 2022 World Series championship with a wild parade.
“The Astros’ parade was amazing,” said Miller. Two million people there, throwing beads and waving…
“We had a couple of players on the bus, so I’m sure they were cheering for them, but I’d like to think they were cheering me on,” he said with a laugh.
Perhaps Miller is underestimating his sudden popularity.
During the World Series, television cameras zoomed in on the Astros’ first-year head coach, who was partially responsible for setting up the historic four no-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4 to tie the series 2-2. He also helped guide the Bulls to the lowest ERA (0.83) in postseason history.
On Wednesday night, an event will be held in Miller’s hometown Melbourne Beach to honor the kid who grew up playing in the South Beaches minor league, and at Melbourne High School and Brevard Community College. It will be held at St. Sebastian’s Episcopal Church, where he attended Sunday school, and where his mother, Nancy, is still frequently involved in the congregation.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Miller, who insists he’s not entirely in charge of a pitching staff that has defined the Phillies’ usually strong lineup with a 163 combined batting average, the lowest ever for a World Series team in at least six games.
said Miller, who often works on pre-planning with manager Dusty Baker who, at 73, became the oldest captain to win a World Series race — his first in 25 seasons.
“They all pitched exceptionally well and executed very well,” said Miller, who, coincidentally, was drafted by the Phillies organization in the 32nd round in 2001 out of North Carolina.
He went on to post a 67-55 record with 22 saves and a 4.01 ERA in his 294 minor league game career that included teams such as the Batavia Muckdogs, New Jersey Jackals, Bridgeport Bluefish, and Round Rock Express, once the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate.
In all, playing for 11 teams, Miller’s two-seam 90-mph fastball covered more than 1,200 innings before retiring after the 2010 season and embarking on his first role as pitching coach for the rookie Greenville (Ten.) Astros, who won the 2015 Appalachian League.
He then became a scout for the Astros for the next two years.
“It was (a chance) to stay in the game, a chance to stay in the life of baseball, which I don’t know about any other, really,” he once told reporters.
Historic match was not planned
The four-hitter, the only other no-hitter in World Series history besides Don Larsen’s 1956 gem, was not planned, Miller said, although a similar feat occurred in June (using three pitchers) against a New York team. Yankees. and the same pitcher, Christian Javier.
“It’s always hard to attack Christian,” said Miller. “He’s a young right-hander from the Dominican Republic that we signed and developed from the minors. He’s been phenomenal.”
In terms of multiplayer, “we went into a loose plan with the workload in terms of roles,” said Miller. “(Javier) used all of his bullets through seven (innings) first (hitting out 13 Yankees), then six (in the World Series).”
Brian Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressley, who did not allow an earned run the entire series, shut out the final three innings of Game 4 to hold the series and shift the momentum back to Houston, which won the next two games.
During the regular season, Astros pitchers led the major leagues by a 2.78 ERA, and that success had a lot to do with Miller, who had been the bullpen’s coach since 2018 before being promoted when Brent Strom retired after the Astros’ loss to Atlanta. Braves in the 2021 World Series.
Now Miller, who will turn 44 in two weeks, is enjoying the view from a bench in the dugout.
“It’s hard to watch a game in Minute Maid Park,” he said with a laugh. “Now, I have a completely different perspective. The game is really fast paced and the game now has a different level of athlete class, so I get a unique insight into that.”
He said Baker “loves listening to my thought process” about how to convince hitters or who to bring in. “We don’t always agree, but in the end, it worked,” he said.
challenges in the bullpen
For the past few years, Miller has been a bullpen and he has often been seen with a towel wrapped around his neck holding a clipboard of notes to opposing putters.
“All you need is a towel and a glass of water, and that’s important…and tell them which man they might run into who’s coming to bat,” he said.
The World Series ring he will soon be getting will actually be his second. As a former scouting and minor league coordinator during the controversial 2017 Astros championship, he was among the staff members who were also awarded diamond rings.
The following season, he became the Astros’ game coach, listening to the angry rants of fans, especially when he started his pitching.
“It’s been really bad the last two years,” Miller said. “You just take it with a smile.”
This past season, the Astros also introduced Bill Murphy as an associate coach in the bullpen. The former Greenville pitching coach, who had like a “cup of coffee” in the majors, was a valuable asset, Miller said. He even attended Murphy’s wedding in New Jersey, where it “was cold” during the holiday season.
Miller, his wife, Danielle, and their young son and daughter spent most of the time away from the court at their home in DeBary, a suburb of Orlando, and often visited his mother in Melbourne Beach.
Now, he’s gearing up for spring training in West Palm Beach, reporting to pitchers and catchers on Feb. 15.
Overcome rule changes
Another change this season to Major League Baseball’s rules, this one banning shifting from second base, will keep Miller glued to the polls.
“It will negatively affect staff across the league, not just us,” he said. “There was a reason it was the perfect way to defend (against a hitter who always hits to one side). Now, you’ll see more ground balls going past the right side, which means more batters are entering base, which means more runs.”
Two years ago, the rules were changed to force relief pitchers to throw to at least three batters unless the inning was over, a move dictated to speed up the game.
“That definitely changed the strategy,” said Miller, noting that it changed how certain matches were guaranteed. “It made using bullpen buddies a little tricky. Suppose you’ll have a good sidearm man against a right-handed (hitter), but with no tip or one out, now he has to face the next two guys, who may both be left-handed.”
However, Miller’s training and strategy paid off.
Look, I’d be lying if I said I expected to be where we were (ultimately), season-wise, getting into the heart of the season. But the cast was headlined by Justin Verlander, Ryan Presley was closer, and the little-known Framber (Valdes) took home the accolades. Being an all-star, Hector (Neris), Bryan (Abreu), Rafael (Montero) and Ryan (Pressly) have handled a lot of those roles (relief).”
Now, the veteran Verlander has signed with the New York Mets, where he will join Max Scherzer.
“I was happy to see him back on the mound (after Tommy John surgery forced him to miss the 2021 season),” Miller said. “We had a good working relationship. He’s a very tough competitor, knows himself very well, and what he thinks he needs in the bullpen… It’s a shame to see him go with the Mets.”
Meanwhile, the Astros added some leverage by signing former White Sox outfielder Jose Abreu, and re-signing Montero and Michael Brantley, who both declared free agency.
“A lot of teams have improved, but so have we,” Miller said. “Everyone is aiming for a shot at us. I think we’re all excited to be back again.”
Especially now that he’s got the best seat in the house.
Meet Josh Miller
A free event titled “Josh Miller Night – Dreams Come True” will honor the hometown coach of the World Series Champion Houston Astros at St. Sebastian-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 2010 Oak St. in Melbourne Beach, on Wednesday, January 25, from 6-8pm includes ceremony Reception Free Astros raffle, question and answer session, and refreshments.