Shelby Miller hopes to revive MLB profession with Dodgers in 2023

It was a jam-shot, however not the sort Shelby Miller most popular, those produced by nasty, bat-splintering pitches on the arms of opposing hitters.

This one stemmed from a mechanical glitch that left the center finger of Miller’s pitching hand throbbing after the right-hander, in his third begin for an Arizona staff that traded away its high prospect to accumulate him in 2016, jammed his hand into the mound on the follow-through of a second-inning pitch in San Diego.

“I’ve never seen anybody hit his hand on the ground like that — ever — and it wasn’t like it was one time, it was multiple times,” mentioned Mike Butcher, the Diamondbacks pitching coach from 2016 to 2019.

“I was like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ It was almost like jamming your finger with a basketball, and you’re trying to throw a baseball. It definitely affected him.”

Miller has no thought how or why he smacked the entrance of the mound in Petco Park on that April night time in 2016 — it had by no means occurred in 4 minor league seasons and three huge league seasons in St. Louis and Atlanta.

Shelby Miller jams his hand into the mound throughout a sport with the Diamondbacks in April 2016.

However the freak harm appeared to set off a cascade of calamities for a pitcher who went from an All-Star season in 2015 to a Class AAA demotion in 2016, Tommy John surgical procedure in 2017, a untimely comeback and disastrous 2018, a shoddy 2019, a dormant 2020 and 2021 and 2022 seasons spent largely within the minor leagues, the place he transitioned to the bullpen.

Virtually seven years later, Miller, 32, will try and revive his profession with a company identified for turning scrap-heap acquisitions into extremely productive huge leaguers, the burly 6-foot-3, 225-pounder signing a one-year, $1.5-million main league cope with the Dodgers on Dec. 2.

“It’s one of those things where you kind of have to ride the wave, man,” Miller mentioned by telephone from his residence in Phoenix. “I’ve had a ton of success in the big leagues, I’ve struggled a bit these past few years, and it was an eye-opening experience playing in the minor leagues.

“It kind of brings you back to loving baseball again and the grind, of being gritty and trying to get back to the big leagues, and I’ve done that. So I’m pumped to be able to say I stuck around and didn’t give up.”

Miller was starting to marvel if he would get one other huge league shot. Launched by 4 organizations from 2019 to 2021, Miller spent 5½ months of 2022 with the Class AAA groups of the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants, compiling a 2.87 ERA with 12 saves, 69 strikeouts and 21 walks in 53 1/3 innings of 43 video games.

However it wasn’t till Sept. 22 that Miller was lastly referred to as up by the Giants. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in three video games earlier than being roughed up for 5 runs in 1 1/3 innings of his fourth and last sport.

“I was dominating in the minor leagues and was getting to that point where I was like, ‘There’s nothing more I can do,’ ” Miller mentioned. “I told my wife [Erika] that if I don’t get called up, I’m never going to. But I never quit, I kept working hard, I got that opportunity and took off with it.”

The Dodgers took word of Miller’s still-lively 94-mph fastball, sweeping slider and excessive whiff charges and recognized him as a reliever on the rise, one who might assist ease the lack of injured setup man Blake Treinen and complement a bullpen led by Daniel Hudson, Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia and Brusdar Graterol.

Shelby Miller delivers during a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies in September 2021.

Shelby Miller delivers throughout a sport between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies in September 2021.

(Matt Slocum / Related Press)

“I started trying to fix everything and got into my own head. It was kind of a downhill, spiral effect.”

— Shelby Miller

“He had a lot of success in triple A and has fully transitioned to being a reliever,” Dodgers common supervisor Brandon Gomes mentioned. “It’s an interesting throw — a fastball with a kind of low-slot, rise-and-run, and the slider plays off that. We feel like he’ll have a high strikeout rate with an average walk rate.”

Miller has begun throwing bullpen classes with assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness on the staff’s spring coaching advanced in Phoenix and is in fixed telephone contact with pitching coach Mark Prior.

He’s engaged on a split-fingered changeup, an 89-mph pitch with good diving motion that he thinks “will be really good,” and an upper-80s cut-fastball.

“We’re seeing how we can tunnel pitches better off the heater and trying to perfect my craft a bit,” Miller mentioned. “These guys are so knowledgeable. Connor and Mark are amazing dudes who know a lot about pitching, how to get guys out, how to get swings and misses, and how we can do this every day.”

Miller had a five-pitch repertoire as a starter and established himself as one of many sport’s higher younger pitchers in 2013, incomes a spot within the Cardinals rotation as a 22-year-old and ending third in Nationwide League rookie-of-the-year voting.

He went 31-35 with a 3.27 ERA in 95 begins in three seasons (2013 to 2015) with St. Louis and Atlanta and made his first All-Star staff in 2015, however his profession nose-dived after he was traded from the Braves to the Diamondbacks on the winter conferences in 2015.

Arizona had pried Zack Greinke, the 2015 NL Cy Younger runner-up, away from the Dodgers with a six-year, $206.5-million deal and considered Miller as the ultimate piece to a championship-caliber rotation that included Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray.

So the Diamondbacks despatched shortstop prospect Dansby Swanson, the primary general choose within the 2015 draft, and two different gamers to Atlanta for Miller, a commerce that was extensively panned when it was introduced and regarded worse a number of years later.

Whereas Swanson thrived in Atlanta, Miller went 5-18 with a 6.35 ERA in 29 video games for Arizona, a three-year stretch Miller described as “a roller-coaster ride.” In actuality, it was all downhill, beginning with the sport wherein he jammed his fingers into the mound, an harm that compelled him out of that sport after two innings.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller delivers against the New York Mets in September 2015.

Atlanta Braves beginning pitcher Shelby Miller delivers in opposition to the New York Mets in September 2015.

(John Bazemore / Related Press)

“I’ve always had a really long follow-through, but that was definitely a weird moment, and we really couldn’t pinpoint a reason why it happened,” Miller mentioned. “After that, I got into a bit of a rut.”

Miller went 2-9 with a 7.14 ERA in 14 begins in 2016 earlier than being demoted to Class AAA in early July. He returned in late August and completed with a 3-12 document and 6.15 ERA in 20 begins.

“His fastball still had pretty good velocity, but he wasn’t able to spin the ball, and it affected his command,” Butcher mentioned of the finger harm. “I don’t want to make excuses for him, but for me, it affected his game, big-time.”

What appeared like a minor bodily difficulty morphed into an even bigger psychological one.

“I was coming off an All-Star season and had never really struggled like I was, and I was just scratching my head, wondering what the heck was going on,” Miller mentioned. “I started trying to fix everything and got into my own head. It was kind of a downhill, spiral effect.”

Miller’s struggles put a drag on a staff that was anticipated to contend for a division title however completed fourth with a 69-93 document, after which supervisor Chip Hale and GM Dave Stewart had been fired.

“I think he put a lot of pressure on himself to be ‘the guy,’ to perform at a higher level, because he knew we traded a lot to get him,” Butcher mentioned. “He was trying to be perfect in an imperfect game.”

Miller tore his elbow ligament in his fourth begin of 2017 and had Tommy John surgical procedure in Could. He returned in late June 2018, 13 months after surgical procedure — “I kind of rushed back and wasn’t ready,” he mentioned — and went 0-4 with a ten.69 ERA in 5 video games. He was let go after the season.

“Those Arizona years,” Miller mentioned, “we’re a little cuckoo.”

So had been the subsequent 4 years, wherein Miller made solely 36 huge league appearances and opted out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus. However he confirmed sufficient in 2022 to warrant a assured huge league contract from the Dodgers.

“My family and my friends kept me going, everyone telling me, ‘You still got it,’ just believing in me, making me not want to stop playing,” Miller mentioned. “I have a lot left in the tank. I think I’m gonna have a big year in 2023. I’m excited for it.”