SEATTLE — Lefthander Andrew Miller, a key member of the Red Sox bullpen, was told Monday he needs season-ending surgery on his left foot.
Dr. George Theodore, a foot specialist, examined Miller and found what is known as a Lisfranc injury. Miller has a torn ligament between bones in the middle of his foot.
Miller will get a second opinion before scheduling surgery. But the Red Sox are not optimistic the diagnosis will change. Miller was injured on Friday when he planted his foot on the mound en route to backing up home plate.
“Very,” said manager John Farrell when asked how significant loss it was for the Sox. “Given the way he’s pitched and the importance of that power lefthander in the bullpen, it is.”
Miller was third on the team with 37 appearances. He had a 2.64 earned run average and a 1.37 WHIP. Over 30 2/3 innings he had struck out 48.
Once a first-round pick of the Tigers, Miller struggled with command early in his career and was traded twice.
The Red Sox showed patience with the hard-throwing 6-foot-7 pitcher, trying him first as a starter before putting him in the bullpen and changing his mechanics.
This season was the best of his career as Miller proved reliable in late-inning situations.
“Obviously on a personal level, it’s disappointing and from a team perspective we’ll miss him,” said Craig Breslow, who is now the only lefthander in the bullpen.
“This team has showed we’re pretty resilient and we’ve had to overcome some key injuries. This is another one. We have no option but to keep on moving forward.
“Andrew been trending upward the last couple of years at a pretty rapid pace. His potential has been documented and he was finally realizing. It’s got to be a tough blow for him.”
Said Farrell: “He was well on his way to becoming a dominant lefthanded reliever.”
The loss of Miller greatly increases the odds of the Red Sox making a trade to improve their bullpen. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.
“We’ll just have to see. We’ve had guys step up all year when the opportunity was there. We need that to continue,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “We’ll see what other opportunities come our way later in the month.
“But when you lose a guy you have to replace him some way. We weren’t planning on losing a guy like Miller and so we have to fill that.”
With so many teams in contention, the market for relief pitchers will be active. But relievers are inconsistent by nature and determining which ones can stand up to the pressure of a pennant race is difficult.
“It’s tough,” Cherington said. “The most efficient way to do it is to ignore completely. But then you run the risk of not having enough guys out there. We can’t say never to a trade for a reliever just because it’s hard to predict. We have to evaluate each possibility for what it is. If you find something internally, that’s always a better way to go.”
The internal options for lefthanders are scant.
Franklin Morales has appeared in only six games this season and is on the disabled list for the second time with a strained pectoral muscle. He is at least a 3-5 weeks away from returning.
Lefthander Drake Britton was recently promoted to Triple A Pawtucket. Cherington said there are no plans at the moment to try him in the bullpen.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, who pitched in the majors for Seattle from 2007-10, pitched well for Triple A Pawtucket before needing surgery to remove his appendix. He is not expected to pitch again until the end of the month.
“We’ll look at every internal option. If there’s something that makes sense, I’m sure that we’re open-minded to it,” Farrell said.