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Tigers’ Chadd played big role in getting Lester, Miller to MLB

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
David Chadd

Detroit – It is a baseball scout’s lot in life to live out his failures publicly and celebrate his successes quietly, without much fanfare.

Nobody knows that better than David Chadd, the Tigers’ assistant general manager and long-time director of amateur scouting. His buttons had to be bursting last week as he watched two players he helped get drafted – Cubs pitcher Jon Lester (shared with Javier Baez) and Indians reliever Andrew Miller – win NLCS and ALCS MVP honors, respectively.

“It’s funny because it didn’t even dawn on me as I was watching it,” Chadd said. “Then afterward, I was like, ‘Man, I helped draft both of those guys.’”

There’s the answer to your trivia question: What, other than being left-handed, do Lester and Miller have in common? Both were scouted by and drafted into the big leagues on the recommendation of David Chadd.

“There’s a little bit of both – pride and validation,” Chadd said. “Obviously, you are happy for the players individually. You’re proud the decision you made at the time turned out to be the right one.

“Both took different paths to the Major Leagues. Andrew came up a starter and found his niche in the bullpen. Jon was always a starter, but he had to overcome the adversity and the obstacles off the field, his cancer. Just extremely happy and proud for both of them.”

Chadd was in his first season as the Red Sox scouting director in 2002 when area scout Gary Rajsich (now the Orioles’ scouting director) began praising a left-handed high school pitcher from Tacoma, Washington.

“We’d gotten reports on Jon from the summer and fall, but in the spring (of his senior season) he got off to a slow start,” Chadd said. “Plus, he had made a commitment to Arizona State. I really didn’t see him until his last start.

“I told Gary, ‘If you think we have a chance, let me know.’”

Andrew Miller

Rajsich, an ASU alumn, and the Red Sox national scout Ray Crone (now with the Tigers) were persistent.

“Ray said, ‘You better get out here because I think we have a chance,’” Chadd said.

Chadd flew out to Tacoma, saw Lester pitch the last game of his high school career and, with the 57th pick – the 16th of the second round – the Red Sox selected Lester.

“That was our first pick that year; we didn’t have a first round pick,” Chadd said. “He had an up and down senior year, which is probably why he slid to where we were. Plus, his commitment to ASU was strong. We paid a little bit more to sign him, but looking back, it was well worth it.”

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The Tigers in 2002 made two picks before the Red Sox selected Lester. They took shortstop Scott Moore in the first round and outfielders Brent Clevlen in the second round.

“Jon was more of a projectable lefty,” Chadd said. “He wasn’t throwing hard then like he does now. He was maybe 87 mph to touching 90. Very loose, very easy (delivery). A strike-thrower in high school. Very athletic. So we were projecting what he’d be in three or four years.”

Lester made his big-league debut with Red Sox in 2006, going 7-2 in 15 starts. And after battling cancer, he went on to win 110 games, earn a pair of championship rings and make three All-Star teams in nine seasons.

Not that Chadd didn’t experience some initial buyer’s remorse.

“I remember I went to Fort Myers to see his first bullpen,” Chadd said. “The ball was coming out like 84-85 mph and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my.’ But you could see the delivery and the arm action. You could see how intense the guy was and how focused he was on who he wanted to be.

“That’s what you saw.”

Jon Lester

A couple of Red Sox developmental staffers also watched the same bullpen and congratulated Chadd.

“They told me, ‘This guy is going to be something special,’” he said.

The drafting of Miller in 2006 was more of a no-brainer. Chadd was the Tigers director of amateur scouting and Miller, pitching at North Carolina, was the scourge of college baseball. He was Baseball America’s College Player of the Year and he won the Roger Clemens Award.

The Tigers took him with the sixth overall pick, ahead of Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Max Scherzer.

“I saw Andrew pitch a no-hitter in high school,” Chadd said. “He just dominated his amateur career at every level. We drafted him as a starter, and obviously he’s found his niche out of the bullpen.  But a guy with that much talent, you want to exhaust every effort for him to be successful as a starting pitcher.”

Miller made his Tigers’ debut the same summer he was drafted and in 2007 was in the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.

“It’s funny,” Chadd said. “With Jon, once he found his cutter, that’s when his development really took off. With Andrew, once he got to the bullpen, that’s when he really took off. You just never know.

“With both, it was a total departmental effort. It’s not just me taking the credit. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. But with these two guys, the word you said – validation – that’s the big thing for me.”

Twitter @cmccosky