Miller key to success of reloaded D-backs

Miller key to success of reloaded D-backs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Having already shelled out $206.5 million on free agent Zack Greinke this offseason, the D-backs felt they needed to acquire one more starter in order to transform their starting rotation from a weakness to a strength.

After looking at the free-agent and trade candidates available, they set their sights on Shelby Miller.

But Miller wouldn't come cheap, as the D-backs had to send outfielder Ender Inciarte, last year's No. 1 overall Draft pick, Dansby Swanson, and right-handed prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves to get the right-hander.

"For me, he was a 25-year-old top-end-of-the-rotation starter that has been able to throw a lot of innings each year he's been in the big leagues," D-backs general manager Dave Stewart said. "At 25, he's got more to learn, a lot more to learn, which means that we could have him here for his best years. So I looked at it as he's going to learn, he's already good and he's going to get better."

Miller was plenty good for the Braves last year. He received the worst run support in the Majors, which is why he finished with 17 losses despite a 3.02 ERA. In 15 of his 33 starts, he allowed one or fewer runs.

If Miller is able to take that next step, he could form a dominant duo at the top of Arizona's rotation with ace Greinke, while also taking pressure off No. 3 starter Patrick Corbin.

That's what the D-backs are counting on and why they paid a steep price to acquire Miller.

If that sounds like a lot of pressure, well, Miller is used to it. After all, he was a No. 1 pick by the Cardinals in 2009 and pitched for them while they were contending for playoff spots in 2012-14. Plus, he knows what it's like to be dealt in a big trade, having gone from St. Louis to Atlanta in exchange for Jason Heyward before last season.

"At the end of the day, I put the most pressure on myself," Miller said. "For the fans, you obviously want to do good and you want to make the trade look as good as possible. But at the end of the day, if I show up every five days and compete my butt off, I can look back and say whatever happens I did the best I could to prepare myself. I can live with that."

The transition to the desert has been a smooth one for Miller, who quickly became popular with his new teammates.

"I just feel like it's right," he said. "I feel like I fit in around here. The guys are great. We're having a lot of fun, I'm having a lot of fun. We get along easily, everyone is working and on the same page. The flow in here is great. It's fun to come to the field, and that's what you want. Hopefully that continues into the season."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.