Arizona Diamondbacks: Nearing All-Star break, Miller’s absence is minimal

Shelby Miller has began the protracted rehab period from Tommy John surgery. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)
Shelby Miller has began the protracted rehab period from Tommy John surgery. (Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Arizona Diamondbacks have compensated for the loss of Shelby Miller.

Though major league teams are limited to a 25-man roster from opening day until September, decision-makers like to point out that the season is won or lost with close to 35 players. For manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the issue of team depth is critical and injuries to key personnel early in the season support his notion of quality reserves.

Here in the first three months of the season, the Diamondbacks were hit with three injuries which could have upset their balance and chemistry. Given improved communication in the clubhouse and the influence of Lovullo’s penchant for reaching out to each player, the Diamondbacks continue on course. Hardly missing a beat, the team continues to play quality baseball and challenge for the National League West Division title.

Losing starter Shelby Miller by the end of April was difficult and that was the way Miller seem to bring himself off the mat. Coming off a disastrous season under previous manager Chip Hale, and spending a significant portion of the 2016 season in the minors, Miller came to spring training with a fresh approach and new manager. That combination seemed to work because Miller was off to a 2-2 start and a 4.09 ERA. That ERA represented a drop of more than two runs per nine innings and Miller, according to Lovullo in late April, “is in a good place.”

During a game on April 23 against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chase Field , Miller was removed in the fifth inning due to tightness in his right forearm. The eventual diagnosis was a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in that elbow. Then, the decision to undergo Tommy John surgery and a protracted rehabilitation period for the next 12 to 16 months.

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In his place, Lovullo has inserted Randall Delgado, Zack Godley and Braden Shipley. Through these starts, Shipley did not far terribly well and Delgado, after his start Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, will go back to the bullpen. At this point, Lovullo has seems to have settled on Godley as Miller’s replacement. Godley joins Zack Grienke, Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin in the current rotation.

Regarding Miller, the long road to recovery just began. Before Sunday’s game with the Phillies, Lovullo told Venom Strikes that Miller is progressing as well as possible.

"“Shelby is in good spirits and was in here (on Saturday,)” he said. “Physically and emotionally, he’s doing very well. The challenge is to focus on the long process ahead.”"

In replacing Miller, Lovullo pointed out the importance of due diligence from general manager Mike Hazen and other decision-makers. To date, replacing Miller seems to be a smooth transition, but the Diamondbacks have not reached the half-way point of the season

Should starters incur injuries or set-backs to the continuity of the rotation, then Hazen’s ability to build an acceptable minor league system, as well as attract possible replacement could be challenged.

For now, the residual effect of losing Miller has been negligible. Then again, the All-Star game is still a few weeks away and the torrid days of July and August await.

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In addition to Miller, Lovullo has also dealt with the loss of outfielders A. J. Pollock (strained right groin) and Yasmany Tomas (right groin tendinitis). While each remain on the disabled list, Pollock and Tomas are progressing through various stages of rehabilitation. Prior to Sunday’s game, Lovullo did not give a timetable for the return of either back in his lineup.