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Elephant Rumblings: Miller moving to bullpen for ‘24

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Detroit Tigers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Brandon Vallance/Getty Images

Happy Tuesday, AN!

The Winter Meetings are all wrapped up and you guessed it, the A’s didn’t make any sort of move during the annual conference. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t a smidgen of news regarding the Athletics’ top prospect.

General Manager David Forst spoke to A’s Cast about a variety of topics but there was one piece that really caught this writer’s ear regarding the organization’s top pitching prospect, Mason Miller:

It’s not completely surprising that the team was at least considering the move, but the words here from Forst seem like the move to the bullpen is the definitive plan heading into the season. As he mentioned in the interview, Miller, who Athletics Nation just reviewed, has been a starting pitcher for the past three seasons, and every season an injury pops up and throws a wrench in Miller’s timeline. We saw that happen last year when Miller went down with an elbow injury. Luckily it was a best-case scenario for Miller as he didn’t require the dreaded Tommy John surgery. Still, it’s clear that the team was spooked enough by that injury that it has completely changed how they’re going to use him in 2024.

Now the question is: what role does Miller occupy in the bullpen? He very clearly has the stuff to be an elite closer in baseball, but would the team like him to earn the closer’s role first? Or is it his to lose come Spring Training? Last year’s closer, Trevor May, decided to hang up his cleats at the end the year so the team is getting a new face there either way. Of the seven pitchers who recorded a save for the A’s in 2023, only three remain on the team: Zach Jackson, Dany Jimenez, and Ken Waldichuk. All three had only one save apiece, and the team probably isn’t ready to give up on Waldichuk as a starter quite yet. So it’s not like there is an obvious alternative to Miller. If he pitches great in camp, he has an amazing chance to be the closer come Opening Day.

And for what it’s worth, Forst said that Miller is willing and ready to pitch in whatever role the team needs him in. Which is always good; you don’t want your young guns getting frustrated. And in addition, Forst didn’t seem to completely close the door on a future return to the rotation for Miller, saying only that the current focus is getting him through one season healthy. If Miller thrives in the bullpen though, it would make it harder for the team to then move him. We’ll see, stay tuned!

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Is this supposed to be a brag?