By Greg Dillard
In front of a packed crowd at Scottsdale Stadium, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants took to the field for the first Spring Training game of 2011.
While the D-backs were handed a 7-6 loss from the Giants, the full story of Friday’s ball game extends far beyond the box score.
Spring Training is always a time for pitchers to compete and prove themselves on the mound. The D-backs have several new faces fighting for spots this spring, and three of them toed the rubber in the team’s opening game.
Southpaw Wade Miley and newly acquired right-handed relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio all saw action against the Giants.
Miley — a young starting pitcher who isn’t in the mix for a bullpen spot but can use this Spring to make an impression on the coaching staff — took over on the mound for the D-backs in the bottom of the third.
One of the team’s most highly regarded prospects lived up to his hype in his first inning of work.
After walking the leadoff batter, Miley responded by inducing two groundouts and striking out Aaron Rowand to end an impressive inning.
“I felt good, a little nervous, a little amped up,” Miley said. “I felt fine pitching-wise, I thought everything was coming out great.”
Miley returned for a second inning of work, but had to battle a little bit. The left-hander issued a pair of walks to Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa.
“Just kind of got rushing a little bit,” he said, “a little too excited I guess.”
Other than the walks, Miley looked as good as advertised on the mound.
“I just got to get ahead of guys, finish guys,” Miley said. “I got 0-2 on a guy and then walked him on four pitches. I’ve got to stick with it and stay focused and pitch. I was so amped up, I wanted to blow it by somebody.”
Miley also said that while he was not completely happy with the outcome, it was good to get the first game out of the way.
Fans got a look at Hernandez in the bottom of the fifth. In his first outing in Sedona red, Hernandez looked sharp as he quickly got Pat Burrell to fly out to start the inning.
Hernandez walked Pablo Sandoval before rebounding and getting Aaron Rowand to fly to left field and striking out Travis Ishikawa to end the inning.
“Anytime you’re a reliever you don’t want to come in and walk batters,” Hernandez said. “The key for me today was trying to throw strikes. I threw enough of them. It was a fairly short inning so I can’t complain.”
Following Hernandez, it was Mickolio who entered the game in the bottom of the sixth.
Mickolio hit the first batter he faced, but quickly quelled any hopes of a Giants rally. The tall reliever then got Emmanuel Burris to hit a weak pop out to third base.
Mickolio ended his first spring outing with two groundouts, and ultimately, the new D-back was happy with what he accomplished in his debut.
“I felt a little anxious, first game back,” Mickolio said. “Everything was decent, had good life on my fastball and my sinker was moving. I just let a slider get ahead of me, hit him with it. Other than that, I felt alright. Overall, I think it went well.”
Friday’s game was the first of the spring season for the D-backs, and like many of his teammates, Mickolio enjoyed taking the mound and competing against another team.
“It kind of gets monotonous,” Mickolio said. “You don’t throw a few pitches to your own teammates because you don’t want to hit them or hurt them before the season. It’s a nice change to see another team up there and you can let it go.”
Images from the D-backs/Giants game from team photographer Jordan Megenhardt:
By Greg Salvatore
D-backs left-handed pitcher Wade Miley is in big league camp after having a terrific season in the minors last year.
Miley started at Class-A Advanced Visalia, where he posted a 3.25 ERA in 80 1/3 innings, allowing just one home run in a very homer-friendly league, before being promoted to Double-A Mobile. There, he was fantastic. Miley was 5-2 with a 1.98 ERA in 72 2/3 innings for the BayBears.
We caught up with Miley to chat about how things are going.
GS: How has the first week in big league camp been?
WM: Good so far. It’s been fun being around guys that are out here, the team, the big leaguers. The new complex is amazing. It’s been a great time.
GS: Do you have the chance to talk to big league catchers and pitching staff, to get views from different guys on what you have to work on?
WM: I try to pick their brains as much as I get an opportunity to. I don’t want to bug them too much. But when I get an opportunity, I talk to them. I actually live with Barry (Enright). So that’s good. I get to communicate a lot with him about things.
GS: That Mobile pitching staff last year was pretty impressive. Do you think there’s a chance that almost everybody in that rotation (Miley, Barry Enright, Josh Collmenter, Bryan Shaw, Tom Layne, etc.) is in the Major Leagues in the next few years?
WM: Who knows, there’s a chance for anything I guess. That would be great. It was a good staff, a lot of fun. Tom Layne, Collmenter and all those guys, it was fun pitching with those guys.
GS: You took a big step forward last year (153 innings, 2.65 ERA), what do you think were the biggest things that progressed for you?
WM: I just tried to start focusing on getting ahead in counts. I worked out in the offseason harder than I had prior to Spring Training the last year. The pitching part of it, I felt more into it. I could get ahead, and (decide) what pitch to throw here, what pitch to throw there. I talked with a lot of staff members in minor league camp and they helped me out tremendously.
GS: Is there a matter of physically adapting to getting older? This is the body you’ve got, this is the stuff you’ve got, and you can kind of perfect things?
WM: When you’re younger, you’re still getting better and better and your stuff gets better. Now I’m 24 years old and I’m at that age where I’ve got to perfect it. Guys who are in here, that’s what they talk about, your stuff is what it is now. Just use it and be the best they can be with what they’ve got.
GS: What are your goals for this year?
WM: I just want to go out and compete and have a good season. Whatever is in store is in store, I guess.