SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Wade Miley was so sure he was going to fall short of making Arizona’s opening day roster last spring that he and his wife, Katy, packed their car and prepared to make the five-hour trip to the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A team in Reno.
He never made it to Nevada.
Reliever Takashi Saito strained a calf just before opening day, and the Diamondbacks said he was going to start the season on the disabled list. Miley, with just eight games of major league experience, stuck with the big league team.
Miley, a former Southeastern Louisiana standout, made three relief appearances and joined the rotation April 23. He went 9-5 with a 3.04 ERA and became an All-Star. He finished 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA, tying for sixth in the NL in wins and earning the 10th-best ERA.
“The way it happened was a big surprise,” Miley said. “I had been a starter my whole career. And when I got the opportunity, I was thinking, ‘Here is my chance to take it and run.’”
A 26-year-old left-hander from Loranger, Miley set Arizona rookie records for wins (16), starts (29) and innings (194.2). He got to pitch in the ninth inning of the NL’s 8-0 All-Star win, giving up a single to Joe Mauer and inducting Elvis Andrus to hit into a force out.
“Last year, we came in here, and Miley wasn’t on the radar. By the end, he was,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. “With Wade, you hope he throws 230 innings, World Series included. We need him to be consistent. He trusts his stuff. He trusts his catcher. You’d like to see him to continue to develop all aspects of his game, stay healthy and continue to develop as a total player.”
Miley finished seven points behind Washington outfielder Bryce Harper in NL Rookie of the Year voting, getting 12 first-place ballots to 16 for Harper, who hit .270 with 22 homers and 59 RBIs.
“I am not a big award guy, and when I didn’t win the Rookie of the Year, I didn’t cry myself to sleep. Harper deserved it,” Miley said.
On a staff that includes Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy, Miley said control has been a key to his success. He walked 37 last season and struck out 144.
“One key for me last year was I was able to throw more strikes. Being able to throw strikes and not give any free passes, that is huge,” he said. “I need to get ahead of guys.”
Miley was able to mix a fastball in the mid- to low-90-mph range with a strong slider and a changeup. Now he hopes to do it again and add a curveball.
“Last year gave me confidence knowing that I have been successful at the highest level of the game. But you want to continue and shine things up and keep improving,” Miley said.
“I want to be able to help my team however I can. This year, I would like to be able to throw all four pitches for strikes. Last year, I was kind of limited to three, so I worked on my curveball and want use it as an out pitch.”