Mason Miller’s MLB debut a lone bright spot in A’s blowout loss

The Oakland Athletics felt Mason Miller belonged on their major-league pitching staff after fewer than 30 innings in the minors. In his arrival Wednesday, Miller offered little evidence to the contrary.

Miller displayed the high-octane arsenal of pitches that propelled him through the A’s system across 4 1/3 innings in his MLB debut, an occasion highly anticipated if not very long-awaited.

It came in a 12-2 loss for the A’s, who went winless on a six-game homestand versus the Mets and Cubs. They are 3-16, matching the 1951 Philadelphia A’s as the only two teams in franchise history to lose 16 of 19 games to open the season.

Amid injuries and poor performance by their rotation early this season, the A’s called up Miller, a 25-year-old right-hander with only 11 games of minor-league experience. Not since 1991 had an A’s pitcher, Kirk Dressendorfer, started his MLB debut with fewer professional games pitched.

Miller faced a full-strength Cubs lineup twice. He allowed four hits and two runs, walked one hitter and struck out five. He threw 81 pitches, 15 of them fastballs at 100 mph or above, per Statcast. He topped out at 102.5 mph in the second inning during a strikeout of the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom.

Miller struck out the side in that inning and retired eight of his first 10 batters. He issued a leadoff walk in the fourth to Dansby Swanson, who scored on a double by Ian Happ. Eric Hosmer rolled an infield hit to open the fifth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tucker Barnhart, Miller’s final hitter.

Miller threw about two-thirds fastballs, averaging 99.3 mph on them, and mixed in a low-90s mph slider and mid-90s cutter, the latter mostly to left-handed hitters. He threw just one changeup. 

“Showed poise and composure,” said a major-league scout who was at the game. “Had presence: Threw strikes with express, made hitters uncomfortable with various emergency swings early in the game.

“Going forward he will have to develop a softer pitch option up here to keep hitters off the (fastball) if he’s destined to be a starter. Has all the traits to start at this level, especially if he learns the art of changing speeds. Worst case is he’s a power lock down bullpen piece. A win-win for the A’s either way.”

Oakland’s third-round draft pick in 2021, Miller emerged as a prospect late in his college career, after a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes during his sophomore year at Waynesburg University. The 6-foot-5 right-hander weighed about 150 pounds and was throwing in the mid-80s when he was diagnosed at age 19.

His joining the A’s on Tuesday was well-timed – five years, to the day, after Miller was diagnosed via a drug test that he took while applying for an internship, his parents recalled.

“If he hadn’t come home for that appointment, he could have died during finals week,” said his father, Matt. His mother, Kirstin, said the family was getting ready for dinner when they got results of Miller’s blood-sugar level being alarmingly high.

“The office called and said, ‘You need to pack a bag for the emergency room,’” Kirstin Miller said.