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