PHOENIX — Shelby Miller’s second trip to the minor leagues this season is, without question, a demotion. His first included two disabled list rehab starts with Single-A Visalia, and it could be blamed on a finger injury that was worse than Miller and the Arizona Diamondbacks initially realized.
This time, the right-hander and D-backs’ No. 2 pitcher heads to Triple-A Reno without any excuse.
Simply put, he’s been bad.
More concerning is that neither Miller nor the team has answers for the pitching woes.
“I think it’s moreso just me figuring out myself,” Miller said Thursday. “I know myself more than anybody … Kind of struggling up here for a while. I’m surprised I was staying up here this long.”
In the meantime, Arizona will enter the second half of 2016 with a four-pitcher rotation.
Zack Greinke’s return from an oblique injury is without a timeline, meaning Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Robbie Ray will pitch, in that order, in a series against the Dodgers that starts Friday. After an off-day Monday, Zack Godley will take the mound Tuesday against Toronto.
There is no timetable placed on Miller’s trip to Reno, but Hale said it’ll be up his pitcher to earn his way back to the majors.
Maybe his 7.14 ERA and a 2-9 record this season confirms it was a poor decision for the D-backs to trade for Miller, but Hale will also take much of the blame for the results.
“We’ve dropped the ball with him,” Hale said. “When you have players, my job, as I always felt, is to make them better than they are, to try to get them to overachieve. When somebody underachieves, it’s frustrating.
Hale’s message to the pitcher: “We’re not going to be the team that we had envisioned without him being what Shelby Miller can be.”
Miller didn’t try to fight the demotion. He didn’t think remaining in the majors was an option.
“It’s just, the success wasn’t there. I mean, I think he pretty much admitted that,” Hale said. “He’s a pretty much stand-up guy. He understands this is part of the game.”
Hale told Miller he needed to work better out of jams.
After returning from his rehab stint and throwing a season-best 6.2 innings while giving up one earned run on June 20, Miller took steps backward his next three outings. He allowed zero or one run in the first three innings of each of those games, but the wheels fell off every time.
While Hale believes the mental side of Miller’s game needs work, Miller indicated he also saw physical issues. They might be tied to his mental struggles.
Watching film while the team finished the first half of the season in San Francisco last week, Miller saw changes to his mechanics compared to his 2015 season with the Braves.
“I definitely saw some differences in things,” Miller said. “The biggest thing is to get back to, maybe a little bit more simple — not so much forcing things and trying to make the perfect pitch. I think that’s when mechanics come easier and everything just kind of flows and feels free. Hopefully, I can get to that point.”
While Hale also took the blame, he admitted the demotion comes not only to help the D-backs win. It also means the team was out of answers.
“We feel like here, we failed to get him better and better,” Hale said. “The next move is to get him in a different situation.”
“The mental side of it is just really hard to deal with,” the skipper added. “When you don’t have success, it festers and it gets worse and this situation comes up, you have to get through it.”