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Sometimes, old players aren’t finished. Jobu discusses the resurgence of Kevin Millwood.

We did a few of these Redemption Song posts last season. Basically, they profile a player that was once thought to be on the scrap heap, but are somehow, some way, getting the job done. This time, we’re talking about Kevin Millwood’s unlikely return to prominence with the Seattle Mariners. This one has really caught me by surprise.

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve known about Kevin Millwood since his time with the Atlanta Braves in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Millwood was taken out of high school by the Braves in the 11th round of the 1993 draft, and worked his way rather quickly through their system before being called up in late 1997 at the age of 22. Millwood impressed the Braves enough during that call up (5-3 4.03 ERA), that they put him in the rotation to start the 1998 season. In all, Millwood spent six years with the Braves, winning 75 games and helping lead them to the 1999 World Series.

In December of 2002, the Braves dealt Millwood to the Phillies for catcher Johnny Estrada. In retrospect, this trade wasn’t very good for either team, although the Braves got a couple of very productive years out of Estrada. Millwood won 23 games in his two years in Philly, and eventually moved on to the Indians as a free agent in 2005. It was an odd year for Millwood. He was plagued by lack of run support all season long, only managing a 9-11 record despite leading the league in ERA (2.86). Millwood decided he’d had enough of losing games due to lack of run support, so he signed with the Texas Rangers. In his four seasons as a Ranger, Millwood won 48 games, but they were often high scoring games, as Millwood twice had an ERA over five. After being traded to the Orioles in December 2009 for reliever Chris Ray and leading the league in losses with 16 (4 wins, 5.10 ERA), it seemed like things were over for Kevin at age 36.

A young Kevin Millwood with the Atlanta Braves. (Brad Mangin)

2011 was further evidence that Millwood was done. He started the year on a minor league contract with the Yankees, which he signed with a week left in Spring Training. After just three starts in the minors for the Yankees, Millwood was released and signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox, where he was released after thirteen starts. The Rockies liked what Millwood did in the minors, and quickly signed him to a deal in August, and Kevin was finally called up to the majors. In nine starts for the Rockies, Millwood went 4-3 with a 3.98 ERA. It didn’t seem like much, but it got him noticed by the Seattle Mariners.

Millwood signed with the Mariners in January, and made the rotation out of Spring Training. He had a quality start in his debut against one of his former teams, the Rangers (6 Ip, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 7 K), before two not so good starts (against the Indians and White Sox) made his signing look a little iffy. After another quality start against the Blue Jays (7 Ip, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K), he had a couple of rough but not terrible starts against the Tigers and Rays. At this point, Millwood’s record fell to 0-4, and his ERA was a pretty unsightly 5.88. He was probably running out of time to prove himself at that point, but he put it all together against the Yankees.

On May 13, Millwood held a struggling Yankees offense to one run on just three hits and got his first win of the season. While this could have been just a good start and nothing more, Millwood has really built upon that outing in the two following starts. On May 18, he threw a 2-hit shutout against the Rockies in Colorado for his second and most impressive win of the season. Millwood looked unhittable at times on his way to the seven strike out, one walk performance, but he wasn’t done. His next start, which was last week against the Rangers again, was equally as impressive. Millwood went six shutout innings against the best offense in the league, holding the Rangers to just three hits and a walk, while throwing 97 pitches. He only struck out two guys, but it was impressive none the less.

Millwood has now thrown seventeen straight scoreless innings over his last three starts, and only allowed one run in his last 22 innings. If that’s not a redemption song, then I don’t know what is. The most impressive part is that two of those starts were against two of the best offenses in baseball. I know the Yankees have been struggling, but he still had to get a lot of great hitters out. The same goes for the Rangers, and any time you hold someone to no runs in the thin air of Colorado, I’ll be impressed.

Can Millwood keep up this pace? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid fantasy option moving forward in the 2012 season. I actually picked Kevin up yesterday, so I hope that doesn’t jinx him back into suckiness. I look forward to seeing what he can do in his next start, which is today at 5:05 PM  against the Rangers again. Good luck, Kevin!

Featured image courtesy of: REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Martin Stezano

About Martin Stezano

Uruguayan born and American raised with a unique perspective on the domestic and international sports scenes. It will both tickle your funny bone and enlighten your mind. Love it or hate it...just read it.