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D-backs’ Miller takes ‘step forward’ in second extended spring start

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)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller watched as the ball cleared the fence in right field for a two-run home run. Moments later, “Roll it!” was shouted from the dugout, signaling the end of the half-inning.

“That was a fastball right down the middle up and he put a good swing on it,” Miller said.

It would be his final pitch of the day.

No pitcher wants to walk off the field having just given up a home run, but for Miller, at least right now, the results are secondary to his health.

“What was that, the second hit I gave up? I’m not really worried about it,” he said.

With his big-league teammates enjoying an off day in New York, Miller was throwing to minor-leaguers on a backfield at Salt River Fields.

It marked his second time on the mound in a game setting on his road to recovery from Tommy John surgery.

“Command was not as good as last time but overall, felt pretty strong, which is really all I’m worried about right now,” Miller told ArizonaSports.com. “Threw some good curveballs. Fastball was pretty good — don’t know what the velocity or anything was on it yet, but overall, it was a step forward, for sure.”

Officially, Miller pitched three innings against the Colorado Rockies, but he got up-and-down four times to simulate four innings of work. He threw 62 pitches, 42 for strikes.

Miller went three innings and 30-plus pitches last Friday before he threw about 10 more in the bullpen.

“I’m kind of like in the spring training phase right now,” he said. “As far as physical strength, I feel really, really strong. I feel great.”

With right-hander Taijuan Walker — himself rehabbing from Tommy John surgery — and general manager Mike Hazen among those in attendance, Miller struck out seven batters, including a run of five straight before a one-out walk which preceded the home run in the fourth inning.

The other hit the Rockies got off Miller was an infield single on a ball up the third base line. The good news there is that play allowed Miller to work out of the stretch for the first time in two extended spring training starts.

Miller wasn’t sure what the next step would be for him, either another start in extended spring training or a minor league rehab assignment. Also unknown at this point is when Miller might rejoin the active roster.

“I don’t really have a date set, but I’m feeling good,” he said. “My next one will be, hopefully, a little bit more pitches and we’ll see where that lands us.”

The D-backs are currently down two starters in the rotation. Walker is done for the year, while left-hander Robbie Ray has been sidelined since April 30 with a strained right oblique.

Miller’s return would certainly be welcomed, but it won’t be rushed on account of the team’s current injury situation.

“We got guys who can fill in until I get back who are doing a good job. We’re just not playing the best baseball right now. It’s all about getting it done and winning games with the team you have right now. Even though we’re not there and we’d love to be there to help, we got to get it done without us for right now,” he said, referring to Ray and Walker.

“Of course, I can’t wait to get back and start competing and helping the team win.”