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La Russa: D-backs ‘looking at alternatives’ in hopes of getting Shelby Miller right

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller (26) delivers to Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
LISTEN: Tony La Russa, Diamondbacks chief baseball officer

Another start. More struggles. Another loss.

Tuesday night was much of the same for Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller. Once again, the offseason acquisition found himself in an early hole. Once again, Miller failed to give his team a chance to win, exiting after five innings of work trailing 6-0.

The D-backs lost the opener of a three-game series to the Pittsburgh Pirates 12-1 at PNC Park.

Miller’s continued struggles have led to internal conversations about the number-two slot in the rotation, according to chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.

“(He’s) a guy in between a lot — like a hitter who’s taking pitches he should hit and swinging at ones he shouldn’t — he’s in between fighting his delivery. You know, he could have something going and get distracted by something — could be the circumstances or a certain pitch that he makes,” La Russa told Doug and Wolf Wednesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

“We definitely talked about it after the game. We have a lot at stake. Getting Shelby right is really important to us, but winning every game that spot comes up is too. We’re talking about the combination of what’s best for Shelby to get him to be a productive pitcher and what’s best for our team. I’ll just tell you we’re looking at alternatives — how to get Shelby right and is Shelby involved, one way or another.”

It’s been a season-long struggle for Miller, whose record dipped to 1-6 after Tuesday night’s loss. As pointed out by ESPN.com, Miller is one of only four big-league pitchers with at least nine starts to fail to reach the seventh inning even once, joining Matt Harvey of the Mets, Michael Pineda of the Yankees and Milwaukee’s Wily Peralta.

Miller’s ERA is 7.09 and Arizona is 3-7 in games that he’s started. So what are the Diamondbacks’ options when it comes to a pitcher that was acquired in a trade with the Braves that many baseball insiders have labeled a heist for Atlanta?

According to La Russa, one is having him continue to work through the issues with pitching coach Mike Butcher. Another is to change his role on the staff.

“You put him in the bullpen — that’s what we did with Rubby (De La Rosa) and it worked for him,” he said.

Since making two relief appearances in mid-April, De La Rosa is 3-2 with a 1.93 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of .154 in his last five starts.

And then, there’s always the possibility of sending Miller to the minors.

“Because he does have options, that’s just something that’s an alternative toward getting him right,” La Russa said. “We’re discussing it all and his spot comes up again Sunday against San Diego.”

La Russa said that the organization will mull over its options before making a decision.

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