Working quickly, Astros’ Wade Miley embraces craftiness

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — For much of his career, Houston Astros pitcher Wade Miley tried to avoid the backhanded compliment he now is grudgingly willing to embrace.

Following the powerful arms of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in a starting rotation, along with the overall proliferation of triple-digit radar readings, can prompt a re-examination of self.

“I’m more of a ‘crafty lefty,’ I guess,” Miley said. “I hate saying that because I’ve never classified myself as that for a long time, but in today’s game, that’s where I’m at. I’m a soft-tossing lefty.”

Cruising in the upper 80s to low 90s, Miley’s fastball doesn’t have the zip possessed by the two guys he calls the “two horses at the top” of Houston’s rotation. But in one way, he is faster.

Few in baseball take less time between pitches than the 32-year-old Miley, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million free agent contract with Houston during the offseason. That’s why Major League Baseball’s experiment with a 20-second pitch clock during spring training never affected Miley.

“Wade really stresses a lot about his pace,” Cole said. “I’ve always thought it was important, but you see how you can really force a hitter’s hand — especially when he’s changing speeds.”

Miley traces his quick pace to Jay Artigues, his college coach at Southeast Louisiana, who taught pitchers to never turn their backs on the catcher, an edict aimed at getting the pitcher to work faster.

As he progressed through college and the minor leagues, Miley found that approach often unnerved hitters.

“I learned over time it puts a lot more pressure on hitters, they don’t like it,” he said. “They start calling timeout. They start getting out of their rhythm.”

Working quickly when not slowed by the groin and oblique strains that landed him on the disabled list last year, and emphasizing a newly refined cutter and an above-average curveball over his fastball, Miley pitched to a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts last season for the Milwaukee Brewers.

As effective as Miley’s fast-paced approach can be, manager A.J. Hinch doesn’t believe it can be forced upon all pitchers.

“It’s a comfort,” Hinch said. “Some guys play golf fast. Some play slow. Some people reset in tennis faster or slower. I think it’s just more of an individual pace. Some people live life slow. Some live faster. I like them both.”

Rain washed out Tuesday’s scheduled game against Philadelphia, causing Hinch to pick up the pace with his starters.

The cancellation, combined with Monday’s scheduled off day, means that three of Houston’s five starters will pitch on Wednesday. Miley gets the Grapefruit League start against the New York Yankees. Collin McHugh moves to the back fields to pitch in a minor league game, and Cole, Tuesday’s scheduled starter, pitches in a simulated game.