Arizona Diamondbacks: Shelby Miller looks forward to a fresh start

Sep 17, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller (26) pitches during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller (26) pitches during the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Right-hander Shelby Miller of the Arizona Diamondbacks is ready for a new beginning

Before Saturday’s pre-season opener, Torey Lovullo, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, told Venom Strikes that Shelby Miller, his starting pitcher, right now “is on a good place.”

That could easily be a huge relocation from the purgatory Miller existed for most of the last season. Many believed Miller’s acquisition from the Atlanta Braves during the 2015-16 off-season was achieved at a high cost. The Diamondbacks traded Ender Inciarte, a defensive outfielder whose metrics was recorded with saving runs and Dansby Swanson, a former number one pick overall, and now the Braves starting shortstop, for Miller.

Arriving in the desert amid high expectations, Miller did not reach close to the hype generated by the trade. Now only was the Houston native expected to carry similar worth as Inciarte and Swanson, but also to complement Zack Greinke on the Diamondbacks’ ascendancy to the top of the National League West standings.

By most accounts, Miller failed miserably. With a 3-11 record and 6.15 ERA in 20 starts for the Diamondbacks, Miller spent most of July and August in the minors. Back from banishment this spring, the 25-year-old agrees with Lovullo that the wrongs of last season have been corrected and he is indeed in a good place.

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"“Last spring, I was battling my mechanics and now, that’s not the case,” Miller told Venom Strikes after his initial spring outing Saturday. “I was not as aggressive with my pitches and that hurt. I was satisfied with the way things went (Saturday), I threw strikes and threw first pitch strikes.”"

In two innings against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River, Miller threw 29 pitches and 23 for strikes. He needed only ten pitches (seven strikes) to get through the first inning and ended his session yielding three hits, two runs and struck out three.

The two runs allowed came on a hard hit ball from Gerardo Parra to the right of second baseman Brandon Drury that darted into right field. That scored two at the time, and the Rockies then went on to defeat the Diamondbacks, 8-4 before 9,795 Saturday.

The difference between what Miller showed Saturday and the maladies of last season was striking. Through Lovullo was not his manager last season, the first-year Arizona skipper was positive.

"“Despite the loss, I took many positive from this game and the first was Miller,” Lovullo told Venom Strikes. “He was crisp and moved the ball around the zone. Balls were not hit hard against him, and overall, a good outing.”"

Against the Rockies on Saturday, Miller showed a live fastball and improving curve. While there is no one pitch to master on his spring agenda, Miller indicated he would continue to use bullpen sessions and game experiences to prepare for his first start of the season. That will likely come during the opening series against the San Francisco Giants at home.

"“I want to work on everything, really,” Miller said. “One area I want to improve is finishing guys off.”"

If Miller showed flashes of being an effective starter Saturday, Archie Bradley stumbled. Allowing five hits and five runs, including a home run to Colorado shortstop Trevor Story in 1.1 innings, Bradley said he wants to shake off this poor performance and concentrate on the future.

"“I was little frustrating, but it is February and just the first outing,” Bradley told Venom Strikes. “I was missing spots, but know I need to make better pitches. I’ll take the good with the and move forward.”"

Regarding Bradley, Lovullo said execution was the issue.

"“(Bradley) needs to get back to execution.” Lovullo said. “(The Rockies) put balls in play against him and put Archie in a corner. He’s needs to get better execution, and it’s all part of the process.”"

Looking ahead

The Diamondbacks and Rockies conclude their home-and-home set Sunday at Salt River (1:10 p.m.).

Right-hander Braden Shipley starts for the Diamondbacks and Lovullo will have  Kevin Jepsen, Tom Wilhelmsen, Randall Delgado, Enquire Burgos, Even Marshall, Jared Miller and Jimmie Sherfy available behind Shipley. The Rockies will start lefty, Chris Rusin.

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On Monday, the Diamondbacks host Cincinnati at Salt River. Lefty Patrick Corbin gets his first start of the spring, and on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks play the Texas Rangers in Surprise. Right-hander Taijuan Walker, in his Arizona debut, is scheduled to start for the Diamondbacks.