BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Chip Hale wants things done a certain way with his team, and if they’re not done right, then they’re done again and again until they are right.
The attention to detail, and taking care of the small things is what will make the Arizona Diamondbacks relevant, they hope, through the World Series this fall.
“We expect a lot,” Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller said. “We obviously set goals for ourselves throughout the season; goals that are reachable and goals that are going to be way harder to reach than others. I think a lot people outside of our team have a lot of expectations for us, but we have a lot of expectations for ourselves. We have to hit those marks first. I think, once we play great baseball with the team we have, and the talent we have, if we’re fundamentally sound, and going out and performing the way we should, we should be a pretty good ball club.”
Miller was one of the big pieces the Diamondbacks added on Dec. 9, in the trade that sent outfielder Ender Inciarte, pitcher Aaron Blair and Arizona’s first overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, infielder Dansby Swanson, to the Atlanta Braves.
Don’t let Miller’s 6-17 record from a year ago fool you: You’ve got to look much deeper into what he did last year for Atlanta. In his 33 starts, Miller finished among National League leaders in quality starts (tied for 10th with 21), ERA (11th at 3.02), opponents batting average (11th at .238), and opponents OPS (12th at .663). Miller had 171 strikeouts and he allowed one run or fewer on 15 occasions last season.
Those numbers had to make Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart salivate at the fact that he could have someone like Miller in his rotation, putting up stats like that starting this season. All he had to do is work out the particulars with Miller and his agent, and he’d be throwing flames for the Diamondbacks, which is already happening in Spring Training.
“Shelby Miller is young, competitive, (and) he’s had some good years in the Big Leagues and his better years are still coming,” Stewart said. “It adds to our rotation with (Patrick) Corbin, and (Rubby) De La Rosa, and (Robbie) Ray, and (Zack) Godley and group. It gives us depth, (and) it makes us competitive. At least we know Day One and Day Two, when their (Zack Greinke and Miller) days come in the rotation, we know we’ve got a chance to win a game. As a player in the clubhouse, when you’re looking forward to guys taking their turns, that, in itself, is a positive effect.”
The names and arms just rolled off Stewart’s tongue. On paper, Arizona’s rotation seems to be super-stacked with talent, with Miller and crew. It’s just a matter of Miller and his guys continuing on the Spring Training grind, and figuring out how the rotation fills out.
“We expect to win,” Miller said. “That’s the whole reason why we play the game. We come here every single day to work, and get better and win the game that day, especially when the season starts (on April 4 at Chase Field vs. Rockies). Obviously, this is Spring Training, and it’s early, but we’re setting high standards for ourselves, and not only for myself, but for the team. We’ve seen some moves be made to make this team better, and I’m just going to try to help as much as I can. It’s going to be a fun team to watch for sure.”