Spring training is a time for experimentation and preparation. When changing teams, that’s especially true.
With his second start of the spring Thursday, Diamondbacks’ right-hander Shelby Miller, brought over from the Braves in a high-profile, off-season deal, continues acclimation to his new teammates and new methods. At this point, there is nothing spectacular about his personal criteria. Manager Chip Hale, and other Arizona decision-makers, stress the need to build a familiarity with new surroundings. At the same time, Miller says he is right on target concerning preparation for his first start of the season, likely April 5 and right behind Zack Greinke.
“Spring training is all about staying healthy and getting ready,” Miller said after his start Thursday against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. “I felt good, and worked on a few things, like my curve and a cutter. Right now, I feel comfortable and confident.”
From the start, Miller ran into tough luck. Yunel Escobar led off for the Angels and lifted a routine fly to left field. Rickie Weeks, trying to make the roster as an outfielder, lost the ball in bright sunshine, and Escobar landed on second. Advancing to third on a wild pitch, Escobar then scored when Mike Trout singled to left.
For the day, Miller, who threw 58 pitches, left after three innings, but experienced a protracted third inning. Though the Angels did not score in that frame, he encountered lengthy at-bats from left-fielder Daniel Nava and Trout. In the course of his three innings, Miller gave up four hits, one run, issued one walk and struck out no hitters.
At this point, Hale’s criteria for Miller equals his expectation for all starters. That means accomplishing tasks at hand in a timely and proficient manner. Miller’s effort Thursday fell directly into that standard. Plus, the fact Miller pitched out of an elongated inning in the third also served as an element of preparation.
“(Miller) had to battle hard,” Hale said. “I was happy with the way he pitched, and he’ll get better. We’re working toward April, and he’s on track.”
If Miler was trailing 1-0 after his outing, the Diamondbacks came-from-behind to beat the Angles 5-3 before 6,990. The victory to raised Arizona’s spring mark to 6-3-1.
Down 2-0 in the sixth, Weeks walked and Peter O’Brien laced a single through the hole at shortstop. Jason Bourgeois followed with a three-run shot over the left field fence, and that provided the game-winner.
Right-hander Yoan Lopez pitched two scoreless innings, gained the win and lowered his spring ERA to 2.25. Afterward, Hale said the Cuban-born Lopez “threw with confidence.” Brandon Drury, who went 1-for-2 and raised his spring average to .444, remains in the conversation for a roster spot, Hale indicated.
PICKING UP A BAT
Approaching two weeks of games into spring training, manager Chip Hale said Diamondbacks’ pitchers will start swinging the bat. That will probably happen shortly, although Arizona has a day off next Tuesday.
“They’ll pick it up early next week,’ Hale said. “So far, it’s about settling into their routine and, now we’ll start thinking ahead.”
With Hale stretching starting pitchers out to three and four innings now, that means their spot in the batting order needs to be addressed. Plus, Hale says he’s thinking about hitting some pitchers eighth in the order, and spring training is the time to tinker with ideas. By most indications, Diamondbacks’ pitchers will start hitting by next Wednesday. That’s when they take on Cincinnati at Salt River in a night game.
Before Thursday’s game with the Angels, manager Chip Hale revealed both outfielders Yasmany Tomas and A. J. Pollock underwent MRIs. For Tomas, there was concern about swelling and inflammation on his right knee. At the same time, the condition of Pollock’s right elbow is drawing increasing concern. Both tests came back negative, and Hale said each should be in the line-up after the Diamondbacks day off, which is next Tuesday.
“The key is get to them ready for opening day,” Hale said. “Playing right now is not that important.”
The issue with Pollock may be intensity. Known for extra work, Hale indicated Pollock needs to recognize limits, and not over-exert. At this point, Hale pointed out, “(Pollock) needs to stay away from extra work.”
A LOOK AHEAD
On Friday, lefty Patrick Corbin gets the start in Surprise against the World Champion Kansas City Royals. Corbin will be followed by righty Matt Koch, right-hander Daniel Hudson, righty Tyler Clippard and right-hander Randall Delgado. The Royals are expected to start right-hander Chris Young.
For Saturday, the Diamondbacks spilt their squad. Half remain at Salt River, and will play the Royals. Righty Rubby De La Rosa gets the start and projected closer Brad Ziegler will pitch for the first time this spring. The other half will bus over the Scottsdale Stadium for a game against the San Francisco Giants. Right-hander Archie Bradley is slated to start for Arizona in this one.