Depending on where you look for your baseball information you will see conflicting reports on whether or not Wade Miley is penciled into the Cincinnati Reds rotation. Those who did have him penciled in must have missed the words of Reds General Manager Nick Krall in early February when he said this when asked about who was coming into camp prepared to be a starting pitcher:
Right now it’s Luis (Castillo), Sonny (Gray), and Tyler Mahle are probably the first three starters. Then you’ve got Wade Miley who’s been a starter his whole career, Michael Lorenzen, Tejay Antone, José De León, Jeff Hoffman are probably the guys you’re looking at that come in to compete for those last couple of spots. That’s probably where we are right now.
To compete for those last couple of spots. In many years in the past, Miley would have likely been penciled in given the moderate amount of money he’s owed and his past performance. In 2020 he pitched just 14.1 innings, and he was injured – but the previous two seasons he had a combined ERA of 3.52 over 248.0 innings between Milwaukee and Houston. Miley turned his career around in Milwaukee when he was working with Derek Johnson and developed a cutter.
This spring we haven’t seen Wade Miley in an official game yet for the Reds. Before the game on Wednesday, manager David Bell was asked about Miley and if he was competing for a spot in the rotation along with guys like Tejay Antone, Jeff Hoffman, Michael Lorenzen, and José De León.
“I think given Wade’s track record and who he is as a pitcher he certainly has the inside track on one of those positions,” Bell said. “The big thing with Wade is just making sure he’s healthy, able to stand up to the season. We want him to not only be one of our starters, but to be able to know he’s going to go out and compete, go deep into games, and all indications are that he is healthy. If he’s healthy, this guy can pitch. There’s no question there. Zero question about what kind of pitcher he is. So he’s working really hard to make sure he can pitch the entire season, which is what we want him to do. If it keeps going that direction then yeah, he has the inside track on one of those spots for sure.”
There’s a few things to take away here. First is that how many times health is mentioned when it comes to Wade Miley. Last season he missed time with a groin injury and a shoulder strain. Second is that Bell did indicate that he believes Miley is healthy. That’s good news. Still, despite that, he continued to bring up keeping him healthy.
“My main concern with him is to keep him healthy and try to figure out how we can get him to a point where he can get into the season staying healthy,” said pitching coach Derek Johnson at the end of February of Miley. “The one thing I know for sure is Wade can pitch. When he pitches and he is able, he’s very successful. I had him in 2018 with the Brewers, so I do have a history with him and I know what he’s capable of. Really, for me, health is the main concern, trying to keep him going until we get into the season.”
Spring games had not yet begun when Johnson made that statement, but he spoke about Miley being healthy, too. Getting him to the season healthy. But it wasn’t just the coaching staff talking about the left-handed pitchers health. Wade Miley himself spoke about it in late February, too.
“It was a little different this offseason,” said Miley. “I didn’t throw quite as much as I normally would. I took it a lot easier on my lower half, just to try to let everything kind of heal and get ready. But I feel like I’m in a good spot, so I’m just excited.”
“The groin is something I’ve dealt with since 2018. Why it’s not healing completely, or whatever is going on with it, I’m not really sure. I spent a lot of time with a physical therapist in the offseason, more than I would in the past and hopefully we’ve corrected some issues.”
We know that Miley threw on the backfields on March 6th. He is scheduled to pitch tonight at some point after Tyler Mahle makes the start. Don’t read into the fact that Miley’s coming out of the bullpen tonight – there’s plenty of time to adjust things if he winds up in the rotation and get him lined up for the regular season.
It seems that everyone in the decision making role of the organization believes that Wade Miley can be a quality pitcher when he’s healthy. There’s a reason to believe that – he has been. But it also seems that those same people all seem to be worrying about Miley being and or staying healthy. The 34-year-old has started 249 of 255 games in his big league career. Prior to coming out of the bullpen twice down the stretch last season, you have to go back to 2012 to find the last time he pitched out of the bullpen when he made three relief appearances for Arizona in his lone season that he made an All-Star team. Those three relief appearances were the first three games he pitched in that season, joining the rotation on April 23rd and then not pitching out of the bullpen again for the next decade.
Tonight is the first real look that the public is going to get at where Wade Miley is at. His B-Game that he pitched in last week was not open to the public. While the game won’t be televised, it will be on the radio, and the duo of Tommy Thrall and Jeff Brantley have been pretty good this spring at mentioning the velocity for each of the pitchers in the game. That could give us some insight into where his health is.
While a healthy Miley may have the “inside track” to a spot in the rotation, he has some competition – some of which has pitched better than others. Tejay Antone has looked outstanding and the numbers back it up so far. Jeff Hoffman had a strong outing in his last outing. Yesterday saw José De León look absolutely dominant until he gave up back-to-back homers in his third inning of work. Michael Lorenzen has been hit-and-miss in his two outings – but you could see the flashes on Wednesday as he got plenty of swings and misses, though the overall results haven’t been great on paper to this point.
|José De León||8.0||5.63||8||6||14|
While the team could go with four starters to begin the season thanks to off days, that is not a part of their plan. They will begin the season utilizing all five starters, whoever that happens to be. If Wade Miley isn’t one of them, then he’s going to slide into the bullpen where he doesn’t have much experience in his career. But it could be one way to keep him a bit healthier and on the field. Maybe. Pitching more frequently, but less overall workload could do the trick. But there’s also a chance that pitching more frequently could actually lead to more health issues.
The Reds are going to have to make an interesting decision with Wade Miley. Perhaps the decision will be an easy one, either because he remains healthy and looks good all spring, or because he is simply outperformed by two of the other candidates in a way that it’s just too much to ignore. Tonight really starts the decision making process. Miley will be facing other big leaguers. The environment is going to be a bit different from a B-Game on the backfields in a much more controlled environment. If Miley remains on an every 5th day schedule, he’s only going to pitch in four games this spring. That doesn’t leave the team with a ton of information to work with, but if their main concern is his health, then perhaps it is enough.