There have been many references to Arizona Diamondbacks’ right-hander Shelby Miller so far this season. Most are not complementary.
When Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager Chip Hale met the media prior to his team’s workout Thursday in Chase Field, the anger, frustration and disappointment swept across his face like an unwelcome swarm of gnats. Fielding questions why right-hander Shelby Miller was demoted to Triple A-Reno earlier in the day put Hale in a most undesirable position.
Clearly, the Arizona manager would refer to speak about wiping the slate clean from an underachieving and embarrassing first half of the season, and create the level of energy needed to press forward. Instead, Hale found himself in the uncomfortable position of defending a starting pitcher whose putrid production cannot be defended.
The key reference point in this entire scenario is there is no time table for Miller to bounce back to the majors. Hale called playing at the highest level of the game as “performance-based, and this is not an instructional league,” he made clear.
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Plus, the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks are Miller’s third team in the past three years speaks volumes how the Cardinals and Braves, his two previous employers, though of his less-than marginal results.
“At 2-9 and an ERA over seven per game, I saw this coming,” Miller said in the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse Thursday before heading out the door.
“What’s the answer? I can’t figure that out, and maybe it’s best they get better guys in the rotation. I’ll go down there and try to figure myself out.”
For the first half of the season, Miller won no games at home and eventually landed on the disabled list in June for a sprained right index finger. Since his return from the DL, the 25-year-old Miller was 1-3 and a 7,22 ERA.
In his last two starts prior to the All-Star game, Miller could not hold leads, and lost both games. On July 1 at home against San Francisco, the Arizona Diamondbacks staked Miller to leads of 3-0 and 4-1, and he ended up losing, 6-4.
Against the Padres, also at home, on July 6, Miller was handed a 4-0 lead, but proceeded to give up five runs in the fourth inning and another tally the next inning. Miller was then lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth and lost that one as well.
For his part, Hale supported the pitcher in his best political defense. Though decidedly awkward, the manager still managed to hold out for some hope.
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“We do not give up on players,” Hale said. “When a player underachieves, this is what happens. By his own admission, he’s not helping us win games, and he will have to pitch this way back to the major leagues.”
Expressing disappointment with his status, Miller did recognize a heightened sense of urgency, and impatience on the part of Arizona decision-makers. “I’ll go down there to figure things out,” Miller said.
“Sure, I hope to get back up here as soon as possible. I want to be up here and contribute the best I can. No, no timetable, and it will be as long as it takes.”
For now, Miller’s turn in the rotation is filled by right-hander Zack Godley, who will start this coming Tuesday night at home against Toronto. For the first 10 days following the All-Star break, Hale will go to a four-man rotation until a Diamondbacks have a series in Milwaukee during late July. In this span, the Diamondbacks have two days off, and Hale does not need a fifth starter until that four-game set with the Brewers.
To replace Miller on the 25-man roster, the Diamondbacks recalled lefty Edwin Escobar from Reno, who is back in Sedona Red for the second time this season.
All-Star Game notebook
In the midsummer classic at San Diego, Paul Goldschmidt, though he did not start at first base for the National League, had more playing time than the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo, who started the game. Yet, the results were far from encouraging.
Goldschmidt entered the contest as a pinch hitter for Bryce Harper in the top of the fifth. Down 4-2 at the time, and Daniel Murphy on first as a result of an error, Goldschmidt flied to right. Next time up in the seventh, and after Murphy singled, Goldschmidt again came to the plate as the tying run. This time, he lifted a short fly to center.
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In the ninth, Murphy singled to reach base for the third straight time ahead of Goldschmidt, and for the third consecutive plate appearance, Goldschmidt represented the tying run in a two-run, American League lead.
Here, Orioles’ closer Zach Britton, who reaches the radar gun in the upper 90s, induced Goldschmidt to bounce to the mound, and Britton’s throw to second forced Murphy.
“I felt I had good at-bats,” Goldschmidt said afterward. “I faced Britton before, and he has a really good fastball. With two strikes, I had to fight. It’s tough not seeing these guys all season, and then it gets challenging because (American League relievers) are all so good.”
With an 0-3 night, Goldschmidt is now 2-for-11 lifetime in four All-Star games.
Following the All-Star break, the Diamondbacks open up the second half with a five-game home stand.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are first into Chase Field.
On Friday at 6:40, left-hander Patrick Corbin (4-7, 4.94 ERA) takes on right-hander Bud Norris (4-7, 3.98). On Saturday at 5:10 p.m., look for righty Archie Bradley (3-5, 4.64) to oppose former Diamondback Brandon McCarthy (2-0, 2.70). In the series finale Sunday at 1:10 p.m., it’s lefty Robbie Ray (4-8, 4.81) facing righty Kenta Maeda (8-6, 2.95). Then, the Toronto Blue Jays come in for a Tuesday night game and Wednesday matinee.