Barry M. Bloom

Miller clears hurdle with first win of season

D-backs righty says mechanics, health and head are all on point

Miller clears hurdle with first win of season

PHOENIX -- A journey of a thousand pitches begins with one single pitch, and with a 7-3 victory over the Indians on Friday night at Chase Field, D-backs right-hander Shelby Miller began that arduous trek.

No trade and no pitcher was more maligned than Miller, who last year became the unwitting symbol for Arizona's unexpected 93-loss season.

Miller was acquired from the Braves in a Dec. 9, 2015, five-player trade that sent Ender Inciarte and Dansby Swanson to Atlanta. He was expected to back up $206.5 million free-agent signee Zack Greinke, but instead was 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and suffered the indignity of being sent to the Minors to work out his issues.

It's hard to say where poor mechanics and lack of success leads to a shattering of confidence, but that all happened to Miller, whose win Friday night was his first after 11 tries at home as a D-back. Last year, he was 0-8 with a 7.39 ERA at Chase in 10 starts.

"The first one at Chase is pretty huge," Miller said prior to the rematch between the two teams on Saturday. "All of them matter and to finally get that one out of the way was nice. No matter what the outcome at the end of the day if we get the win then I've done my job. How we get it and if I get it doesn't matter to me."

Make no mistake, it all matters. Miller was so out of sorts last year that he kept scraping the ground with his right index finger on his follow through when he pitched. The action led to a nearly one-month stint on the disabled list.

When he returned in late June, his problems persisted and Miller was sent to Triple-A Reno where he made eight starts. He came back to the Majors on Aug. 31 and allowed 14 earned runs and 32 hits in his next five starts. But suddenly the light seemed to come on his final two starts at Baltimore and Washington, as he pitched 11 shutout innings and allowed only eight hits.

The scraping of his knuckles on the ground is much like the yips a catcher gets throwing the ball back to the mound or a second baseman making an accurate throw to first base.

"Why did that happen? I don't know. I can't even tell you," Miller said. "I was just all out of whack mechanically. When I'm out there you don't really feel it, you think everything you're doing is right. When you go back and watch the video you can see the mistakes you're making. But I have no idea. That's one of the crazier things that has ever happened to me."

For all he knows, that craziness and all the losing is in the past. Miller now feels his mechanics, his health and his head are in a good place.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.