Orioles beat writer Eduardo Encina and columnist Peter Schmuck talk about Sunday's game at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. (Video by Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)
Orioles left-hander Wade Miley is routinely one of the quickest workers in baseball, but his consistently rapid pace can lead to varied outcomes on the mound.
When he's getting ahead of hitters and throwing strikes, it's a weapon to dictate the pace of a game by getting his team back in the dugout quickly. When Miley is struggling, it can put him on the fast track to trouble.
He’s never been a pitcher who wastes time. Last season, his 17.8 seconds between pitches was the fastest in baseball, according to FanGraphs, and over the past five years Miley ranks third in the majors in shortest time between pitches (18.4 seconds).
Just like pitchers use spring training to find their comfort zone on the mound, one of Miley’s top priorities in spring training is finding the right tempo.
"You know what," Miley said following his first Grapefruit League outing in the Orioles' spring home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, "I just work fast. I don't go out there and try to do that. It's just how I am. Obviously, at times, I need to slow myself down, and that's more what I work on in spring training is not getting too fast and being able to just pump the breaks a little bit and get back in a good rhythm."
Miley’s two innings Sunday went by in a flash, a positive sign for his first spring training start. He attacked hitters, made quick outs and worked ahead with a four-pitch mix anchored by a fastball that sat at 91-92 mph.
"I thought it was pretty good," Miley said. "Just trying to knock some dust off. First time I've seen hitters. Overall, I thought it went pretty well. I was able to mix in every pitch at some point. It was good."
Of his 27 pitches, 19 were strikes, including eight of the nine pitches to begin at-bats. He threw more than three pitches to just one batter.
“When he’s dictating tempo, there’s no wrong pitch,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Sometimes you sit out there and grind: ‘OK, what’s the perfect pitch here? Should I throw this? Should I throw that?’ With the approach he had last year, they’re all the right pitch if the presentation is right.
"There are some places you stay out of against hitters. You know you don't go there. In some outings he had, every pitch was the right pitch, regardless of the count, and he's not a guy that guys are able to sit on any pitch, and when he commands the fastball, which he does most of the time, he can present a lot of challenges."
Miley allowed three base runners, all coming with two outs. Andrew McCutchen doubled off the right-field wall in the first, Eric Wood hit a solo homer to left in the second, and Miley hit the next batter on an 0-2 count.
"I thought it was coming out pretty good," Miley said. "Left a few balls up, but overall, it was good to get that one out of the way. … Just [concentrating on] quality of pitches and commanding the baseball, so that's what I'm looking for right now, being able to move the ball in and out, up and down and just make quality pitches."
Miley, who struggled in his first six weeks with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore at last year’s trade deadline for left-hander Ariel Miranda, hopes to build on a strong finish to the season that saw him post a 1.93 ERA and hold batters to a .239 average in his final three outings. That turnaround came after Miley posted a 8.41 ERA in his first eight starts with the Orioles.
Miley’s pace, however, remained the same, as he took 17.9 seconds between pitches.
“I finished strong last year, and I’m looking to just kind of jump-start from where I left off,” Miley said. “I had good command those last couple starts and I was able to get the ball in on righties pretty well toward the end of the year. I think that was a big help.”
If Miley is able to do that, he’ll provide stability to the back end of an Orioles starting rotation that has experience but was shaky last season. Miley’s ERA in 11 starts with the Orioles was 6.17, and right-handerUbaldo Jimenez’s 5.44 ERA in 29 games last season was the highest of his 11-year career.
Mile is in his first spring training with the Orioles, but said he's benefiting from already making the adjustment to a new clubhouse late last season.
"It was very good that I was over here for the last two months and already knew the guys coming in," Miley said. "Just [feel] a lot more comfortable coming in and get about your business."
Around the horn: Monday will be second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s last day in camp before he travels to South Korea to play for the Netherlands’ World Baseball Classic team. … RHPUbaldo Jimenez will make his first Grapefruit League start Monday at home against the Yankees. RHPChad Green will start for New York. … RHPJoe Gunkel didn’t pitch in Sunday’s game because of an upper respiratory infection. … RHPLogan Ondrusek (right ankle sprain) threw off a half mound Sunday. His next step would be throwing off a full mound. … IF Paul Janishis expected to be on the field Monday after completing the final stages of his team physical. … 1B/OF David Washington, who had been out after injuring his shoulder in the team’s first intrasquad game Tuesday, returned to game action Sunday and could be available again for Monday’s game. He struck out swinging but reached on a throwing error and then stole second base. … Several minor leaguers — including Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, D.J. Stewart and Stuart Levy — came over from minor league camp to act as base runners in pregame rundown drills on the main field.