From the deer stand to the pitcher's mound: Wade Miley's path to spotlight
Wade Miley wears a lot of camouflage in the offseason. It keeps him covert up in the deer stand.
But as hunting season came to a close this spring, when it was time for Miley to shed the camouflage uniform and don a Sedona red one, he remained hidden -- not by a deer stand and an outfit, but by names like Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin.
That -- hiddenness -- is nothing new for Miley. The 25-year-old southpaw is from Loranger -- a tucked-away, unincorporated town in southeastern Louisiana with a population of less than six thousand. If it's not hard enough to get exposure in a town of Loranger's size, try doing it in a state like Louisiana that's besotted with football, attending a high school like Loranger High, which is best known for its women's basketball exploits. Such were the initial steps in Miley's path to the limelight he'd find in 2012.
After concluding a decent, one-start Spring Training, Miley tiptoed onto the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster, with the help of Takashi Saito's left calf strain. In typical fashion, Miley got the last spot on the roster, slotted into the not-so-coveted long relief role.
And if anyone on a Major League roster can hide from the spotlight, it's the long relief guy. By the time he gets into the game, most have either turned the channel or headed for the exits.
However, it wasn't even 72 hours into the Diamondbacks' season before Miley was put under the spotlight. The team found themselves down 6-0 to Matt Cain and the Giants after just two and a half innings of baseball. Josh Collmenter was clearly struggling to keep the Giants off the basepaths when, a few batters into the fourth inning, Diamondbacks' Manager Kirk Gibson called for Miley to come in and try to limit the damage.
Four innings and four errors later, Miley hadn't allowed a single hit or run, cutting off the Giants' offense while his team rallied for seven runs, giving the Diamondbacks the opening weekend sweep.
Long relievers aren't meant to impress the way Miley did in the first 10 days of the regular season. They're meant to eat innings in dire situations. They don't have specialist stuff. They don't have setup man stuff. And they certainly don't have closer or ace stuff. Usually, they're "the starter that couldn't." They're the extra arm that's solid, but not superior. You'd rather not need them, because they're plan B -- nothing more. They're meant to be hidden.
Evidently, Miley isn't your prototypical long relief man. When Daniel Hudson was moved to the disabled list with stiffness in his right shoulder, it was Miley who got the opportunity to start in his place.
Prior to the start, which would come against the Phillies at Chase Field, Gibson was asked what he expected from Miley. "A shutout," he responded, jokingly. But he almost got just that. Miley held the Phillies to two hits and no runs over six innings and ended up with the win.
It wasn't a fluke. In his next outing, Miley took a no-hitter into the sixth inning at Marlins Park, outdueling Josh Johnson for the win.
It's hard to hide after a couple of starts like those.
Miley is emerging, indeed. He has been the most reliable Diamondbacks starter, having won as many games in the month of May as the rest of the starting rotation combined. He has the second-most wins in the National League and most consider him the frontrunner for the league's Rookie of the Year award.
On Saturday night, Miley beat Zack Greinke of the Brewers, getting his sixth win of the season -- twice as many as any other member of the Diamondbacks starting rotation.
Winter is over. Wade Miley's not hiding in a deer stand with a camo cover- all on. He's front and center on the national baseball stage, sporting Sedona red.
(For more on Wade Miley, see Jules Tompkins' one-on-one with him.)