February 13, 2009 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul: Covering the Bases

Former Tiger Miller hopes to stay afloat

Detroit took Andrew Miller with the sixth overall pick in 2006. (Getty Images)

Andrew Miller is arriving at Marlins camp with a whole new attitude -- and a whole new delivery. The former first-round pick by the Tigers has completely altered his pitching motion with the hopes it takes stress off his ailing right knee and curtails some of his wildness.

And the Marlins are praying it works. After all, they don't have an immediate backup plan for their left-handed rotation presence after shipping Kalamazoo native Scott Olsen to the Nationals this offseason.

"Cross our fingers the knee is still healthy," Marlins president Larry Beinfest told the Palm Beach Post earlier this month. "Mark (Wiley, pitching coach) has done a lot of work with the delivery. Hopefully, this will be it, things will pop for him and he'll be what we think he can be, which is really good and dominant at times."

Miller, 23, made 20 starts for the Marlins last year, but none after a July 13 shellacking by the Dodgers. He went on the disabled list shortly thereafter because of knee tendinitis, and when he returned in September, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen.

In all, the 6-foot-6 string bean was 6-10 with a 5.87 ERA. Opponents batted .289 against him (right-handers .307), but perhaps most troubling were the 56 walks in just 107 1/3 innings.

"Lots of ups and downs. I hit a pretty good stride for a while. It kind of got frustrating there at the end and I got to the point where I couldn't battle through my knee anymore," Miller said in the Palm Beach Post report. "I want to make my 35 starts. I want to start every game and see what I can do in that situation. I haven't had that opportunity."

Miller, who's also reportedly sporting a new look -- a goatee and a tighter-cropped haircut -- to go with his new delivery, was 5-6 in his two seasons in Detroit. He was traded last offseason in the blockbuster deal that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

The other prized prospect dealt in that deal, Cameron Maybin, 21, is projected as the Marlins' Opening Day center fielder.

What about Pudge?

Another possible landing spot for ex-Tiger Pudge Rodriguez is Houston, where it's a four-man race (with no clear favorite) for the starting catching job.

Here's the kicker that makes Rodriguez, at age 37, a seemingly good fit: The club probably only needs a one-year stop-gap until Jason Castro, 21 -- the 10th overall pick in last summer's draft -- is ready for the majors.

But like the Marlins, the other team Rodriguez has been linked to, the Astros, have little cash with which to play with, making it almost inevitable the future Hall of Famer is in for a pay cut of at least $11 million if he's to avoid early retirement.

Braves to Glavine: Money's tight

The Braves and Tom Glavine sat down Wednesday to talk about the veteran left-hander's return to the rotation, but the parties still don't see eye-to-eye on money matters.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves offered $1 million guaranteed with $3 million more available in incentives. Glavine, in the same report, is said to be OK with the base -- $7 million less than he earned last season -- but would like more available in incentives, like for making a certain number of starts.

The Braves, who spent their big offseason money on Derek Lowe's four-year, $60 million contract, are said to have only about $7 million left to spend on next year's payroll and still need to upgrade their outfield. Yankees Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady are alleged targets.

"I understand they have budgetary concerns for this year, I'm sensitive to that," Glavine told the Journal-Constitution. "Believe me, if I come back and pitch for the Braves, I'd like them to get an outfielder."

Glavine, 42, was 2-4 in 13 starts during an injury-plagued 2008 in which he made his first career trip to the disabled list. He had elbow and shoulder surgery in the offseason, but has said he is pain-free.

Ichiro throws M's a curve

Now warming up in the bullpen, Ichiro Suzuki?

The star outfielder caused quite a stir this week in Mariners land when widely circulated pictures showed him throwing off a mound during workouts with his World Baseball Classic team.

Apparently, he threw 56 pitches Saturday, causing some speculation that Team Japan might be considering using him as an emergency pitcher in the upcoming international showcase.

But that, of course, ain't happening.

"Looked like he was out there having fun," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Times, before adding, "He's not going to pitch." Just for good measure, he reiterated, "He isn't going to pitch."

The photos of Ichiro showed some pretty good form -- a good masking of the ball and a solid glove tuck -- but it would have been interesting to hear about any radar readings. After all, Ichiro, 35, has a cannon of a right arm, having averaged 11.75 assists a year during his eight-season major league career. His 11 were fifth in the AL a year ago.

Regrets, he had at least one ...

Outgoing Miami Dolphins majority owner Wayne Huizenga held a farewell news conference this week, and one of the highlights was his deep regret for ordering the fire sale that, essentially, dismantled the 1997 World Series champion Marlins. He sold the team a year later.

"We lost $34 million that year we won the World Series and I just said, 'You know what, I'm not going to do that,' " Huizenga said, per a South Florida Sun-Sentinel report. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd say, 'OK, we'll go one more year. I'm telling you right now, at the end of this year I'm out of here.' That's what I would've done, but that's in hindsight."

The 1997 Marlins were led by the likes of Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Jeff Conine, Charles Johnson, Robb Nen and Gary Sheffield, each of whom was traded during the offseason or early in the following season. They went from a wild card-winning 92-70 to a major league-worst 54-108, prompting manager Jim Leyland to quit.

Around the horn

* An authorized biography on Manny Ramirez, which reportedly paints the eccentric slugger as the victim in his very-public falling out with the Red Sox last summer, is scheduled to hit bookstores March 10. Among the claims: That the 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary whom Ramirez, 36, shoved to the clubhouse floor actually had it coming. "Becoming Manny" (Scribner, $25) was written by Shawn Boburg, a reporter at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., and Jean Rhodes, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts.

* Speaking of Ramirez ... tough times indeed! While dining earlier this winter at Flounder's Chowder House in Pensacola Beach, Fla., he left a $5 tip on a bill that was between $40 and $50. Just a standard 15-percent tip would've been $6-$7.50. The waitress, though, didn't fret, according to a story in the L.A. Times. Instead, she made a copy of his signed credit-card receipt and sold the original to a customer for $10.

* Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, 45, is going to have his number retired at his high school -- but not the number he wore in high school. According to a Miami Herald report, No. 24 already has been dedicated to Blue Jays outfielder Shannon Stewart, also a Southridge High (Miami) alum, so the school will retire the No. 33 that Gonzalez currently wears in the majors.

* Happy birthday to Lions quarterback Drew Henson. The former Brighton star and Yankees prospect turns 29 today. Also, happy 22nd to pitcher Ryan Perry, the Tigers first-round draft pick last summer.

Diamond digits

* 11,592: Miles (approximately) traveled in catcher Kenji Johjima's three-day, round trip from Tokyo to Mariners camp in Peoria, Ariz., earlier this week. A member of Team Japan, which is training in the eastern hemisphere for the World Baseball Classic, he wanted to personally meet new Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu first. Johjima, 32, is coming off a dismal year offensively (.227) and figures to have competition from former first-round pick Jeff Clement for the job.

* 2/13/87: Coming off a 21-8/3.27 ERA season, Tigers ace Jack Morris goes to arbitration and is awarded a $1.85 million salary, then the highest amount won at a hearing. (The current record is the $10 million judgment for Phillies 1B Ryan Howard last winter.)

He said it

"I'm not confident about anything in the past anymore." Yankees GM, as quoted in the St. Petersburg Times when asked if he believes Alex Rodriguez has been clean of performance-enhancing drugs during his New York tenure. The star third baseman has insisted he only used the PEDs while in Texas, from 2001-03.

Hot-stove scoreboard

213: Total free agents

54: Free agents remaining (approximately)

Free-agent movement from the past week:

OF Bobby Abreu, Yankees to Angels, one year, $5 million

1B Rich Aurilia, re-signed with Giants, one year, minor league contract

1B Ben Broussard, Rangers to White Sox, one year, minor league contract

RP Brendan Donnelly, Indians to Rangers, one year, minor league contract

1B Adam Dunn, Diamondbacks to Nationals, two years, $20 million

3B Morgan Ensberg, Indians to Rays, one year, minor league contract

C Sal Fasano, Indians to Rockies, one year, minor league contract

RP Randy Flores, Cardinals to Rockies, one year, minor league contract

RP Tom Gordon, Phillies to Diamondbacks, one year, $500,000

SP Jason Jennings, re-signed with Rangers, one year, minor league contract

OF Andruw Jones, Dodgers to Rangers, one year, minor league contract

SP Ken Takahashi, Japan League to Blue Jays, one year, minor league contract

SP Braden Looper, Cardinals to Brewers, one year, $4.75 million

1B Kevin Millar, Orioles to Blue Jays, one year, minor league contract

SP Eric Milton, Yankees to Dodgers, one year, minor league contract

SP Ramon Ortiz, Rockies to Giants, one year, minor league

C Jason Varitek, re-signed with Red Sox, one year, $5 million

SP Jeff Weaver, Indians to Dodgers, one year, minor league contract

SP Randy Wolf, Astros to Dodgers, one year, $5 million

RP Jamey Wright, Rangers to Royals, one year, minor league contract

Trade movement from the past week:

RP Matt Bush from Padres to Blue Jays for player to be named.

Tony's best available

The top free agents remaining at each position and a guess at where they might be headed:

* C: Pudge Rodriguez, Yankees (projected: Marlins)

* 1B: Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers (projected: Phillies)

* 2B: Orlando Hudson, Diamondbacks (projected: Dodgers)

* SS: Orlando Cabrera, White Sox (projected: A's)

* 3B: Joe Crede, White Sox (projected: Giants)

* LF: Manny Ramirez, Dodgers (projected: Dodgers)

* CF: Jim Edmonds, Cubs (projected: Orioles)

* RF: Ken Griffey Jr., White Sox (projected: Mariners)

* DH: Garret Anderson, Angels (projected: Braves)

* SP: Tom Glavine, Braves (projected: Braves)

* RP: Juan Cruz, Diamondbacks (projected: Yankees)

Note: Hudson, Cabrera, Ramirez and Cruz all are Type A free agents who were offered salary arbitration, which they rejected, meaning any team they sign with must forfeit an early round draft pick to the player's former team.

You can reach Tony Paul at tpaul@ detnews.com.

Kenji Johjima (Getty Images)
"I'm not confident about anything in the past anymore." -- ... (Getty Images)