Any chances that Indians Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner would suit up for Cleveland this season effectively ended when the club signed free agent left-hander Boone Logan in February. As expected, a Phillies club with pitching deficiencies was not going to let the 26-year-old southpaw go for good as Milner was returned to Philadelphia on Friday.
To complete the exchange, the Indians received $50,000 in return from the Phillies.
Milner was taken with the 27th pick of the December Rule 5 draft by the Indians, who at the time were looking at Andrew Miller and Kyle Crockett as the primary two left-handers in the bullpen from the previous campaign. The club added Milner over the winter to compete with Crockett and a handful of left-handers brought to spring camp for a look, including Tim Cooney, Chris Narveson, Tyler Olson, and James Russell.
With one to two spots open at the time, it was going to take a strong spring from Milner to find a role in the Cleveland bullpen given the Rule 5 expectations that he remain on the roster for the season. An Indians team looking to defend its American League championship from last season with eyes on a return to the World Series could not afford to commit a roster spot in the bullpen to a pitcher unable to carry his weight for the whole season. When Logan entered the fold, it made the chances all the more slim that the side-arming Milner would remain on the roster by the time the team broke camp.
He appeared in seven games for the Indians this spring, giving up seven runs on nine hits over seven innings (9.00 ERA) with three walks, a hit batter, and a wild pitch to his credit. He did strike out nine while throwing 77.4% of his pitches for strikes.
“With his deception and the angles that he throws from, he’s kind of built to face lefties,” said Indians manager Terry Francona on Friday. “The last spot in our bullpen, are we going to realistically be able to carry a guy for a whole year? I think those are the things we’re trying to ask ourself, because, yeah, he is interesting. He’s a great kid.”
Milner, who turned 26 in January, had a good season on the farm last year for the Phillies despite not being added to the 40-man roster for protection from the Rule 5 draft last season. He was 5-3 with five saves, a 1.84 ERA, and a 1.08 WHIP while pitching in 38 games for Double-A Reading, but had a harder time at the Triple-A level with Lehigh Valley, going 0-1 with a save, a 4.50 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP in eleven games there.
It added up to a 5-4 record with six saves, a 2.49 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a strikeout rate of 10.5 batters per nine innings in his first full season dedicated solely to pitching in relief.
He was selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Phillies out of the University of Texas at Austin. He is the son of former Major League catcher Brian Milner, who was drafted similarly in the seventh round of the 1978 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and made his only two career appearances at the Major League level that season before appearing in a minor league game. He singled in his MLB debut against the Indians and had a three-hit game later that week against Baltimore, but was sent to rookie ball after that and never returned to the Majors again, with injuries cutting his career short.
Photo: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin