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OC Register: Dodgers prospect Bobby Miller impresses in Freeway Series finale

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LOS ANGELES — Top Dodgers pitching prospect Bobby Miller celebrated his 23rd birthday on Tuesday, yet he was the one who brought all the presents.

Miller was given the start for the Dodgers in the Freeway Series finale against the Angels, and while Miller might believe it was one of the best gifts ever to pitch in a major league stadium, it was the Dodgers who were getting another close-up look at their new toy.

The Dodgers’ excitement in Miller was validated again after just one pitch in Tuesday’s exhibition game. It was a 100 mph fastball to Angels star Shohei Ohtani that came with a bow on it. Five pitches later, it was another fastball in the triple digits that retired the reigning American League MVP on strikes.

“It was more than I could have asked for out there,” Miller said about pitching on his birthday. “Best birthday I’ve had so far being able to pitch in Dodger Stadium. It’s been a dream my whole life.”

The right-hander, who was scheduled to open the season at Double-A Tulsa no matter what happened in his outing Tuesday, showed that he likely will get another look at life in Los Angeles sooner rather than later by giving up just one hit over three scoreless innings in a 5-0 Dodgers win.

“I see no reason why he won’t make his (regular-season) debut (in 2022),” Manager Dave Roberts said before the game.

A roster spot this season would be a rapid ascent for the first-round draft pick (29th overall selection) in 2020. He did not pitch in the Dodgers’ system that year with the minor league season canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the club tried to make up for lost time last year.

Miller had a 1.91 ERA in 14 appearances (11 starts) at Single-A Great Lakes last season, then had a 4.82 ERA in three starts at Double-A Tulsa. When the regular season ended, he was sent to the Arizona Fall League for 10 innings over five outings (three starts).

“It means the world to me,” Miller said, knowing that Roberts can picture him back at Dodger Stadium soon. “Still, I can’t just focus on that. Obviously, that’s on my mind that I want to make it to the big leagues and stay here for a long time. I just have to focus on being the best person I can be, the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be and we’ll see what happens.”

The Dodgers backed their young pitcher with a two-run double from Trea Turner in the first inning, an RBI double from Max Muncy in the third and a two-run home run from Chris Taylor in the seventh. Freddie Freeman had two walks as the Dodgers earned their only win in the three Freeway Series games.

Tuesday’s outing essentially was the Dodgers’ way of showing Miller the questions in advance of the exam.

“I just think it’s great to have the third deck (on the stadium) and to pitch at Dodger Stadium for a young prospect,” Roberts said. “(It’s) to kind of check a box with some unknown when the situation happens going forward here. (It’s) knowing how to get to the ballpark, knowing what the locker room looks like, places to eat. It just kind of makes things a little less odd or unique.”

Angels starter Michael Lorenzen already knows about life in the major leagues with seven seasons of experience with the Cincinnati Reds. But he also was starting anew with his first outing in Southern California while wearing an Angels jersey.

Lorenzen, a Fullerton High and Cal State Fullerton alum, is back home after signing a free-agent deal with the Angels in November.

But while Miller sparkled, Lorenzen gave up three runs on four hits over three innings with two walks and three strikeouts.

The Angels are opening the season with a six-man rotation so Lorenzen will get a chance to settle into his hometown stadium. He was primarily a reliever the past six seasons, but he will get to flash back to his rookie year of 2015 when he made 21 starts with Cincinnati.

“It’s awesome to come home, sign with the Angels, throw my first game in a big-league stadium at Dodger Stadium, just down the street, you can’t beat it,” Lorenzen said. “I’m pinching myself daily.

“Seven years for me in Cincinnati. That was fantastic, but I’ve always had a desire to come home. To be able to do that, and the first game I’m throwing at Dodger Stadium, it’s awesome.”

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