By STEVE KRAH
“I love this place,” says Miller, who went 10-10 with two saves a 5.39 earned run average in 31 appearances over two seasons while taking general studies classes at IPFW. “There’s plenty to do.”
The 2014 LaPorte High School graduate and Michiana Scrappers travel player was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round of the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Miller was the third player ever drafted out of the school and became the first former IPFW Mastodon on the TinCaps roster when he appeared in six games with the Low Class-A Midwest League club in 2016.
A 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander, Miller has spent 2017 moving between extended spring training in Arizona, the Tri-City Dust Devils in Washington state and Fort Wayne.
“Everything’s a learning experience,” says Miller. “I started off hot, I hit my rough spot and now I’ve gotten my feet back under me and I’m pitching a little better.
“I just want to pitch well and control what I can control. I don’t worry about moving up or down.”
Besides the numbers, what tells Miller things are going right for him?
“I’m throwing strikes,” says Miller. “I’m getting ahead in the count. I’m being consistent with the off-speed and throwing that for strikes.
“I like my fastball. I throw it early and often. I’m trying to get (batters) to swing in the first three pitches.”
In his most recent outing for the TinCaps — July 22 against Kane County — he came out of the bullpen to pitch two-plus innings.
Throwing 30 pitches (23 fastballs and 21 strikes), Miller faced 10 batters and allowed four hits and two earned runs. He tossed a first-pitch strike to six hitters and got ahead 0-2 on three batters.
Three times, he fired pitches shown as 94 mph on the Parkview Field scoreboard and was at 91 or above 22 times.
“If I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get beat with my best pitch, which I think is my fastball,” says Miller, who likes to mix his fastball — which thrown with a four-seam grip but runs and sinks like a two-seamer — with his slider and change-up.
Parents David and Sheree Miller and grandparents Larry and Bev Miller were in the Fort Wayne crowd. LaPorte is only about 100 miles away. When Evan was in college, playing for head coach Bobby Pierce, his dad and grandfather were known to travel as far away as Fargo, N.D., and Tulsa, Okla., to see their boy pitch.
Of course, Evan was a starter most of the time at LaPorte, where he was an honorable mention all-state selection for head coach Scott Upp in 2014, and at IPFW (where he struck out a school-record 94 batters in 80 innings in 2015 and followed that up with 71 K’s in 72 1/3 innings in 2016) so they knew when he was scheduled to play. There’s not as much certainty coming out of the bullpen, but there are days when relievers are considered “hot” and ready to be used on a given day.
Evan Miller, a 2014 LaPorte High School graduate who pitched at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne in 2015 and 2016, is now with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in the San Diego Padres organization. (Steve Krah Photo)