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Shelby Miller’s 2018 debut for D-backs shows he’s still a work in progress

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller (26) throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Shelby Miller’s debut Monday, his MLB return after undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2017, didn’t look good on paper.

The Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander went 3.2 innings, allowing five earned runs and six hits while striking out five and walking two batters.

It seems the D-backs expected it wouldn’t be easy.

After fellow starting pitcher Clay Buchholz suffered an oblique injury a day prior, the team appears accepting that Miller — and Robbie Ray, who will return from an oblique strain Wednesday — might not be sharp as a knife coming off injury. As long as they’re healthy, however, the pitchers are expected to work through the kinks.

Just look at the pitch-mix, and it’s clear Miller’s return was bound to be a work in progress.

“First and foremost for Shelby, I thought swing-and-miss fastballs at times, especially in his first couple innings, I saw him beat some really good hitters with that pitch,” D-backs assistant general manager Jared Porter told Doug & Wolf on Wednesday.

It’s on the righty to build on that.

Fifty-two of Miller’s 85 pitches were strikes and 63 of the total (74 percent) were fastballs — he threw both two- and four-seamers.

The other quarter of Miller’s total pitches were all curveballs, and he didn’t throw another secondary pitch.

“He started to work his curveball in, got a few chases later,” Porter said. “I think as Shelby continues to pitch, it’s more about his consistency, working in more of his pitches. But I think it was a great first step for him. He had, unfortunately, a little in-play of bad luck for him in his start.

“If a bounce went one way or the other, it might’ve looked a little bit different, the overall line. I thought he pitched well, but his fastball velocity and finish on his fastball was certainly there.”

According to FanGraphs, Miller’s fastball averaged 95.6 mph, and GameDay data indicated it ranged from 94-96 mph.

After that, Miller was utilizing a limited repertoire.

In the past three seasons, he threw a cutter from 20-25 percent of the time, occasionally peppering in a changeup.

The Diamondbacks, however, appear pleased that Miller simply got his debut out of the way. The performance was promising, even if it resulted in a 9-5 loss.

“When you step inside of the results, I know it wasn’t something that Shelby felt very good about,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo. “I know the velocity was there — and we knew that would happen. Now it’s about just getting a feel for the mound, and secondary pitches and landing pitches and just feeling comfortable with gameplans. We know that’s going to be a work in progress.”