Right-hander Shelby Miller of the Arizona Diamondbacks has put together back-to-back strong efforts
If the first two outings of the spring for right-hander Shelby Miller of the Arizona Diamondbacks represent any indication, demons from his baseball soul may have been exorcised. Then again, it’s only two spring appearances thus far and a 2016 season of maladies cannot be wiped away within a short week in late February and early March.
Still, Miller demonstrated the kind of talent both the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves believed he possessed. After his initial outing of the spring which yielded two strong scoreless innings last Saturday at Salt River against the Rockies, Miller picked up where he left off Thursday night.
Again this time against the Chicago Cubs, Miller appeared in total control. As he extended his outing to three innings, the Houston native retired nine of the ten hitters he faced and fanned six batters. In the three frames, Miller threw 43 pitches and 34 for strikes.
"“People say the best pitch in baseball is the fast ball and some say the curve,” Miller told Venom Strikes after his latest effort. “The best pitch is the first pitch strike. Numbers show that the average of a hitter at 0-1 is around .200 and at 1-0, it’s over .300. The numbers are there and getting that first pitch for a strike is pretty good.”"
After Chicago lead-off hitter Kyle Schwarber managed a 9-pitch at-bat and popped to short, Miller allowed a single to Albert Almora, Jr., the subsequent hitter. Then, he retired the next eight in a row. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect was that Miller walked no hitters, and did not allow himself to reach any trouble.
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"“I thought I had good fastball command,” Miller told Venom Strikes. “I was able to command both sides of the plate for strikes. Yeah, Schwarber is such a good hitter, and I was a little frustrated with his at-bat. But, I managed to work it out and overall, I feel good, and my confidence is where it needs to be.”"
For the game, Jason Pridie, trying to win a job on the 25-man opening day roster, slammed a three-run homer in the second inning and the Diamondbacks secured a 3-1 victory over the Cubs before a sell-out crowd of 13,309.
In the opener of the split-squad doubleheader Thursday afternoon, Archie Bradley tossed three shutout innings, but the San Diego Padres defeated the Diamondbacks, 9-6. After seven spring games, the Diamondbacks are 3-4.
About the intentional walk, Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed to a rule change.
Announced jointly on Thursday and in place for the 2017 season, the intentional walk is now no-pitch. A manager can signal a decision to the home plate umpire to intentionally walk a particular hitter. The umpire then awards the batter first base.
"“This is one way to shorten a game, and we support the move,” manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes. “We understand there will be other rule changes and the new rule on the intentional walk is not that big a deal.”"
In other rule changes adopted for the 2017 season, a manager has a 30-second limit to challenge a play and then ask for a replay.
If a manager is out of challenges for the game, the crew chief can invoke a review for a non-home run decision beginning in the eighth inning. Last season, this review could be undertaken at the beginning of the seventh inning.
Right-hander Zack Greinke gets his first start of the spring Friday at Salt River against the Los Angeles Dodgers. His mound opponent is former Diamondback Brandon McCarthy. Game time is 1:10 p.m.
For the upcoming weekend, the Diamondbacks head to Peoria and take on the San Diego Padres on Saturday. They return to Salt River and face the Chicago White Sox Sunday.