D-backs CBO La Russa: Health issue impacted Shelby Miller’s performance

Jul 15, 2016, 2:48 PM
Arizona Diamondbacks' Shelby Miller pauses on the mound after giving up his third home run to the C...
Arizona Diamondbacks' Shelby Miller pauses on the mound after giving up his third home run to the Colorado Rockies of the fourth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Tony La Russa, Chief Baseball Officer of D-backs

While the Arizona Diamondbacks’ offseason acquisition of pitcher Shelby Miller was met with some skepticism, even the pitcher’s most ardent of critics could not have predicted what would transpire over the first few months of the season.

Fourteen starts, a 7.14 ERA, two wins, nine losses, one stint on the disabled list and, now, a trip to Triple-A Reno.

Throughout it all, the 25-year-old has shown flashes of the pitcher the D-backs thought they were getting, as he at times had little trouble with lineups and showed the kind of stuff that had some excited about his future.

But all they have been are flashes, as the former St. Louis Cardinal and Atlanta Brave has been unable to maintain any level of consistency or, really, quality.

That may seem harsh, but even Miller himself admitted he was surprised the D-backs stuck with him as long as they did before sending him to the minors, and while the hope is he will quickly iron things out and return to the form that made him an NL All-Star in 2015, the truth is it is difficult to have faith that the team will get a solid return on the deal that saw them part with outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitcher Aaron Blair and shortstop Dansby Swanson.

However, perhaps a stint in the minors is just what the doctor ordered for Miller. He will have a chance to work on his issues away from the big league spotlight, and to be fair, he would not be the first player to re-establish themselves after spending some time away from a major league mound.

But according to D-backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa, there are other factors at play that needed to be — and may finally have been — addressed with Miller.

“There was something that, and I know this is really going to sound kind of yucky and kind of mysterious, but there was an issue that came up — believe me, it was not illegal, it wasn’t anything dramatically character-wise that was a problem — but there was something that came into the way that Shelby prepared that worked against him and not for him,” La Russa told Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “We really didn’t get on to it and solve it until well into the struggles into the season, and now; it’s a health thing that we thought, he thought would be a healthier thing to do, and we realized it wasn’t working for him.

“So what we saw in his time out on the disabled list and in the first couple of games, we saw the improvement, but at this point to maintain that improvement he’s got to get out of the glare where there’s been so much failure that it’s not a fair thing.”

La Russa added the hope is that now healthy, some time in Triple-A will allow Miller to get “his total game in order and he can be the force we expected him to be.”

In a perfect world, that’s exactly what will happen. While Miller has been bad this season, the reality is that he was a pretty good pitcher over his first three full Major League seasons. Last year in Atlanta, he posted a 3.02 ERA across 33 starts.

But for whatever reason — or a variety of reasons — things took a turn for the worse in Arizona. To wit: Miller has allowed 13 home runs in 69.1 innings this season after allowing 13 long balls in 205.1 in 2015.

People have pointed to mechanical issues while some have also wondered if Miller’s problems were with confidence or putting too much pressure on himself to justify what the D-backs gave up to get him.

In bringing up a health-related issue, La Russa provided another possible explanation.

“It was more a diet thing,” he said. “It wasn’t a health — in terms of his arm — or it wasn’t anything he was doing that was dangerous. It was just something that became ill-advised as far as his diet.”

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