SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After a rookie season that saw Diamondbacks starting pitcher Wade Miley win 16 games, make the All-Star team and finish second in National League Rookie of the Year voting, it might seem natural he’d come to spring training this year with a little swagger.
Save a little seniority in the clubhouse, that has not been the case. Instead, Miley showed up for camp hoping to build on his success in 2012 but determined not to let it affect how he approaches the new season.
“You’ve got to avoid that,” Miley said. “You’ve got to put that stuff behind you. Whether it’s good or bad, you’ve got to forget about it and move forward.
“What I told everybody is that I’m trying to come into camp thinking exactly the way I did last year — not with a spot or anything like that, still have to work hard and prove yourself.”
Sounds like a solid method for avoiding a sophomore slump.
Contributing to Miley’s grounded perspective on his job security is the surprising path he took during a season that left him just seven votes behind Washington’s Bryce Harper for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
At the outset of spring training 2012, Miley wasn’t even on the radar. The D-backs had their 25-man roster pretty much set, and Miley was so certain he’d start the year in Triple-A Reno that he’d already packed his car for the drive. Two days before the end of camp, he got word he’d be at Chase Field on Opening Day.
Veteran reliever Takashi Saito had strained a calf and would start the season on the disabled list, so Miley had a spot in the bullpen, though manager Kirk Gibson insists Miley was going to make the roster anyway. Miley got the chance to start when Daniel Hudson got hurt, and he won his first two starts, giving up just one run over the two games.
“I think what last year does is it gives him confidence — he knows he belongs, he knows he can do it,” Gibson said.
Miley — who finished the year 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA — confirmed that he does take confidence from knowing he can get major league hitters out on a daily basis but said he doesn’t allow himself to stand pat.
“You may have gotten guys out last year or in the past, but they’re going to figure you out eventually,” Miley said. “You’ve got to continue to add things to your repertoire or get better.”
It’s with that attitude that Miley is working this spring as he tries to maintain command and improve his little-used curveball. Gibson says there is more Miley must improve, including his pickoff move, fielding, ability to hold runners and hitting.
“He needs to continue to develop and get better in all aspects of his game,” Gibson said. “It’s hard to duplicate (his 2012 results), so I’d like to see him stay healthy and just continue to try to develop as a total player.”
The D-backs would certainly benefit if the 26-year-old Miley can duplicate those results, but he wants to do more than that. He said he and Gibson have not sat down to discuss what’s expected this year, but Gibson expressed what he’d liked to see earlier this week.
“About 230 innings, World Series included,” Gibson said. “You’d like to see 1,000 innings out of your starters. He’s certainly part of that.”
Gibson clearly plans on Miley being a big part of a starting rotation that also includes Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy and a yet-to-be-decided fifth starter. Miley does too, although he’s maintaining an anything-can-happen mentality.
If he is indeed able to avoid the trap of comparing this season’s results to last year’s and continues on the upward trajectory he’s established, he could be in for an even bigger year.