ATLANTA—Wade Miller's Cubs debut on Saturday was about four months too late and four innings too short.
After spending all season rehabbing his right shoulder and pitching in the minors, Miller lasted three innings in a 7-3 loss to Atlanta before 40,584 at Turner Field.
In the end, Miller was just happy to be back.
"I enjoyed just getting back out there and competing again," Miller said. "Overall I felt pretty good, as far as my arm goes."
The Cubs have lost 17 of their last 20 games, including eight straight on the road, falling 1½ games behind fifth-place Pittsburgh.
When Miller signed in January, the plan was to have him pitching in the rotation by middle to late May, joining Greg Maddux, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano and Kerry Wood. But by the time Miller became the 15th Cubs starter in 2006, Maddux had been traded, Prior and Wood were rehabbing their injuries elsewhere and Zambrano was recovering from back problems.
Miller hopes to get a few more starts, but nothing has been guaranteed. If he doesn't pitch again this year, Miller still will have earned $1 million for his three innings of work, or about $333,333 per inning. That pales in comparison to Wood, who will earn $12 million for 192/3 innings, or $610,000 million per inning.
Suffice it to say the Cubs have not gotten their money's worth.
Once a renowned power pitcher, Miller's fastball topped out at 91 m.p.h., and he averaged in the upper 80s.
"That's the hardest he has thrown for us, velocity-wise," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's just his location was off."
Miller did manage to take a run off the scoreboard in the first, simply by making a toss to third on an appeal play after Adam LaRoche's triple. Umpire Jerry Meals correctly ruled Willy Aybar out for failing to touch the bag rounding third on his way home.
But after being staked to a 2-0 lead, Miller served up a pair of two-run homers in the third to LaRoche and Brian McCann. Both homers followed walks, and both came on fastballs in the middle to upper 80s. Andruw Jones homered in the fifth off Jae Kuk Ryu, giving the Braves 14 homers in their last three games against the Cubs.
"That's a lot of homers, a lot of balls that were over the heart of the plate," Baker said. "And they have some guys who can hit homers."
Michael Barrett met up with his teammates Friday for the first time since undergoing surgery to stop bleeding inside his scrotum. Barrett is still in pain but is taking anti-inflammatory pills and has been able to move around much better the last few days.
Barrett feels fortunate the injury was not as bad as it could have been, though it's likely to sideline him the rest of the season.
"This is an injury I wouldn't wish on anybody," Barrett said. "But at the same time, I owe it to myself, my teammates and everybody that knows me to try and get back to the best of my ability and be available to the team however they need me."
Barrett should recover completely.
"For me it was a no-brainer in terms of the decision [for surgery]," he said. "Everything should be good."
When shortstop Cesar Izturis returns Monday from his hamstring injury, Baker will have another dilemma. Does he stick with the original game plan and move Ronny Cedeno back to second, or give the job to Ryan Theriot? "We'll see," Baker said. "Theriot has done pretty good. We're in the producing business." Juan Pierre became the first Cub to steal 50 bases in a season since Eric Young in 2000. He got his 50th in the third inning and added another in the fifth.