Clay Miller kept watching his draft stock increase after every scoreless inning this season.
Suddenly, with a twinge of pain in his throwing elbow, it all was put on hold.
Miller, a 6-foot left-handed pitcher who graduated from Bayfield High School in 2013, saw his first collegiate season come to a pause after nine appearances at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
“I was having a great year down here. Unfortunately, my last start I pulled myself and am having lots of arm pain,” Miller said.
Miller, son of Mitzi and Robert Miller, said pain is coming from the front of his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. The UCL is the tendon often replaced with Tommy John surgery.
The lefty from Bayfield was drafted in the 35th round by the Kansas City Royals in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft. He opted to go to college to improve upon his draft stock. After committing to Colorado Mesa University, Miller decided to attend South Mountain Community College where he could re-enter the draft after just one season rather than having to stay three years in Grand Junction.
In nine appearances in 2014, Miller boasted a 1.54 earned-run average. He had 45 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings of work, and he had a 6-0 record and one save. He mostly worked out of the bullpen; he started one game.
“Before the injury, I had gone 30 straight innings without giving up an earned run,” Miller said. “Hopefully the (magnetic resonance imaging tests) come back with more info and let me pitch again.”
Doctors have looked at MRI results for Miller and are sending him to the medical staff of the Arizona Diamondbacks for further testing. Miller hopes for better news when he visits the MLB team’s staff later this week.
As a senior at BHS, Miller helped lead the Wolverines to a berth in the CHSAA Class 3A state tournament. He threw a perfect game and a five-inning no-hitter in the district championship game. In 59 innings of work, he allowed only 22 hits and 11 walks while recording 137 strikeouts for an average better than two strikeouts per inning. He went 10-0 and had an ERA of only 0.59.
Those numbers helped propel Miller as an MLB draft pick in 2013, and he hopes his arm pain this year doesn’t result in a setback to his high hopes for this year’s draft.
“It definitely plays a huge role. Before this injury, I was looking at the top 10 rounds of the draft,” Miller said. “This will determine next year for sure.”