JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -The Florida Marlins' never-ending, attendance-deflating cycle of purging payroll and revamping the roster reaps an occasional gem, and Andrew Miller could be one.
The 6-foot-6 left-hander looks impressive merely throwing bullpen sessions this week at spring training. He delivers a darting fastball with a fluid motion, which makes him quite a contrast to herky-jerky Dontrelle Willis, the pitcher Miller will try to replace in the rotation.
``I've got a great opportunity,'' the 22-year-old Miller said. ``I'm going to try and take it.''
He was one of six players acquired by Florida in the December trade that sent Willis and slugger Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers. The Marlins made the deal hoping Miller is ready for a starting role less than two years after he was taken by the Tigers as the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft.
``He's a very high-profile guy,'' Marlins pitching coach Mark Wiley said Wednesday. ``Getting him was big.''
Catcher Mike Rabelo, who also came to Florida in the trade, caught Miller last season in Detroit.
``Marlins fans should be very excited,'' Rabelo said. ``He's got nasty stuff. It's electric. He's throwing in the mid- to upper-90s on both sides of the plate. His pitches sink and cut, and he throws across his body. He's deceptive. He's big. I'm just glad I'm catching him and not trying to hit.''
Miller said he was ``totally shocked'' by the trade, then soon realized it could accelerate his career. He made 13 starts for the Tigers last season but also spent time at three levels in their minor-league system. He's likely to earn a regular turn in the rotation much sooner with the Marlins, whose starters had the highest ERA in the majors last year.
Plus the deal brought the Gainesville native back to Florida. Miller was the state's high school player of the year at Buchholz High in Gainesville in 2003.
He turned down a scholarship offer from the University of Florida to pitch at North Carolina, following his parents' counsel that it's best to go away to college. But he remains a Gators fan and looks forward to the day they play the Tar Heels in basketball.
``I think it would be fun. I can't lose,'' he said with a grin. ``I love watching the Gators and the Tar Heels.''
Miller was chosen college baseball's top pitcher after going 13-2 as a junior at North Carolina. He then was drafted by the Tigers and made his major league debut in August 2006, throwing a scoreless inning of relief at Yankee Stadium.
``I didn't even know what was going on,'' Miller said. ``Instincts carried me through that. Afterward I couldn't even tell you who I faced, I was in such shock. Luckily I survived.
``It's going to be hard to top that, unless I'm on the mound for the last out of a World Series.''
Last year Miller spent time at Lakeland, Erie and Toledo, going a combined 3-4 in 13 starts. He made his first major league start in May, shutting out St. Louis for six innings.
He finished 5-5 for the Tigers with a 5.63 ERA.
``I got a taste of it last year,'' he said. ``I think I have an idea of what it's going to take. I certainly have to improve on last year. If I go out and replicate what I did last year, I don't think I'll be around for very long, or not at all.''
Miller said command was his big problem with the Tigers. He walked 39 and allowed 73 hits in 64 innings.
``I walked a ton, but on top of that, just being behind in the count hurt me,'' he said. ``I gave up a lot more hits than I think I should have, but when you get behind major league hitters 2-0 and 3-1, they're going to get their hits.''
Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson said Miller struggled to control his breaking ball and outside fastball but survived some starts with only an inside fastball.
``When he figures it all out, he's going to be one of the best lefties in the game,'' Robertson said. ``When he has something besides inside pitches, he's going to be amazing. It'll be fun to watch him develop.''
The Marlins feel the same way.
---
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this report.

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