Thursday, September 06, 2001

Reds' Miller is baseball's bull's-eye

AP Sports Writer

        Corky Miller didn't get a hit in his first game for the Reds but he did get hit — a most appropriate debut for pro baseball's closest thing to a bull's-eye.

        The 6-foot-1, 225-pound catcher can't seem to get out of harm's way when he's in the batter's box.

        “It's been that way ever since Little League, I guess,” Miller said Wednesday. “I wasn't one of the best hitters and I always tried to get on base. It started happening a lot. I found out how to take a pitch without getting hurt.”

        Miller, 25, signed with the Reds as a free agent out of Nevada-Reno in 1998 and took his talent for accumulating bruises to the minors. He got 35 hits and was hit 21 times in 45 games in rookie league.

        In 1999, Miller was plunked 31 times in 99 games, second-most in all of minor league baseball. He earned first place last year by getting hit 30 times in 103 games while batting .233.

        He was nailed 31 more times this season before earning his first promotion to the majors Monday. He's been conked consistently, even though he stopped trying long ago.

        “Maybe in high school or junior college I was trying to get hit, hoping not to bat, but it's something that's turned out to happen every year,” he said.

        In his first four pro seasons, Miller has been hit 114 times in 351 games while getting 305 hits. By comparison, Don Baylor was hit 267 times in 19 seasons, an average of 14 times a year, as he set the major league record.

        Miller has been seriously hurt once, when a pitch got him in the flap on his batting helmet in 1999 and punctured his eardrum. He was out for seven days and lost his hearing for a month.

        The right-handed batter used to crowd the plate, contributing to his hit-by-pitch total. This year, he moved farther back in the box and a little farther from the plate, but still is getting nabbed.

        “The main thing is I don't get out of the way a lot of the time when I could,” he said. “That has a lot to do with it. When you bat eighth, you're always looking for a way to get on base.”

        He got his first big league start Tuesday night against Houston's Roy Oswalt, who's had near-perfect control against the Reds all season. Oswalt hasn't walked a Reds batter in 21 1-3 innings this year, but he's hit one batter.

        Guess which one?

        In his second plate appearance Tuesday night, Miller took a fastball in the back of the ribs.

        “He has awfully good control, though it didn't look like it when he hit me,” Miller said, adding, “I probably could have gotten out of the way of that pitch.”

        Family and former teammates called after the game when they learned his first major league game resulted in his first major league HBP.

        “They were like, 'That's odd,”' he said.


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