Posted on April 24, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Arizona Diamondbacks have placed right-handed starter Shelby Miller on the 10-day DL. An MRI has been scheduled for Miller but a diagnosis is not yet known. Miller left his start Sunday against the Dodgers in the 5th inning amidst tightness in his forearm. Forearm pain is sometimes a precursor to Tommy John surgery, and so the Diamondbacks are fearful that the issue could be serious but ae trying to remain optimistic.
“It just jumped up on him in the fifth inning,” Diamondbacks manager Torrey Lovullo said Sunday. “(Arizona pitching coach) Mike Butcher went out for a mound visit. Nothing was said about it. And we just didn’t like what we saw. Then I went out there and made that decision to remove him.”
Miller had thrown four shutout innings to start the game but allowed two walks and a double to the first three batters in the 5th inning before being removed. He says he has never felt pain in his forearm the way he did on Sunday.
“I felt it tighten up in the fifth a little and I kind of lost command,” Miller said. “I just felt like I couldn’t throw the pitches where I wanted them. I didn’t have a good feel for it.”
Miller lived through a disastrous campaign in 2016, going 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA in 20 starts in his first season since being the key figure in a trade from the Braves to Diamondbacks. However, he appeared to have turned a corner, as he was solid if unspectacular during his first three starts and got off to a promising start in his fourth start of the year on Sunday. After taking the loss on Sunday, Miller is 2-2 wth a 4.09 ERA this season.
“These are tough things for me to address,” Lovullo said after Sunday’s game. “It’s really unfortunate. Shelby’s been throwing the ball extremely well. Numbers aside, you just hate to have something like this pop up. We’re going to be optimistic.”
If Miller has to undergo Tommy John surgery or spend a significant amount of time on the DL, it could be devastating to his career. He has one more year of arbitration, but the Diamondbacks may not want to tender him a contract for 2018 if he’s coming off an injury, making him a free agent. He also hasn’t done enough to make teams forget about his immense struggles last season, which could make it difficult for him to find a guaranteed contract on the open market.
As for the Diamondbacks, they have recalled reliever Silvino Bracho to take Miller’s spot on the roster, although he will mostly help reinforce their bullpen. It remains to be seen what Arizona will do when Miller’s spot in the rotation comes up later this week. It’s likely that Archie Bradley will be used to fill the vacancy in the rotation, at least until the Diamondbacks have a better idea how long Miller will be out. Bradley, once a highly regarded prospect, posted a 5.02 ERA in 26 starts last season but has given up just one run in 11.1 innings out of Arizona’s bullpen this year.
The Diamondbacks have been one of the surprise teams in baseball early in 2017, starting the year 12-8. They’ve done so with one of the most steady and consistent bullpens in the game, including Miller. Losing Miller, even if it’s a short stint on the DL, will challenge Arizona’s rotation depth. More importantly, a serious injury could put Miller’s career at a crossroads, as both he and the Diamondbacks will be holding their breath on the MRI results.