LOS ANGELES – When Dodgers pitcher Bobby Miller steps on the mound, there’s a certain aura around him. Each pitch is with confidence. Each step comes with purpose. Each motion of the arm more times than not results in a quality offering.
“Every time he steps on the mound, it’s a presence,” Dodgers outfielder David Peralta said. “Like, ‘Hey, I’m the best here.’ And that’s the kind of attitude that you have to have.”
So far in his young career, the 24-year-old’s production reaffirms that attitude on the mound.
Miller is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 23 strikeouts in four outings. The beginning of his career rivals Fernando Valenzuela’s in 1981, when he began 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA and 21 strikeouts in his first four starts. Valenzuela went on to win Rookie of the Year, playing a key role in the Dodgers World Series title.
After a flurry of injuries to their starting rotation, the Dodgers called up Miller on May 23 from Triple-A Oklahoma City. His MLB debut came in Atlanta, some 737 miles away from his hometown of Elk Grove, Illinois. But Miller looked at home on the mound. He struck out five batters and allowed just one run in four innings as the Dodgers won 8-1.
Since then, Miller’s given up one combined run in three starts with 10 more strikeouts (18) than hits allowed (eight). In his previous start against the Philadelphia Phillies, Miller threw six scoreless innings, becoming the third pitcher to go at least five innings while allowing no more than one run in each of his first four career games in the same season, according to MLB.com.
“He’s definitely not intimidated,” Dodgers shortstop Chris Taylor said. “His first outing, he faced the Braves and, obviously, a great offense and some big hitters and he went right at ’em and didn’t back down, so to speak. You like to see that from a younger guy.”
‘He’s been great’
Buehler’s and May’s injuries are longer-term blows — Buehler is targeting a Sept. 1 return, according to the Los Angeles Times, while May joined the 60-day injured list late last month. Urias and Syndergaard are both on the 15-day injured list; Urias hasn’t pitched since May 18.
“He’s been great. Just to be able to have a guy come in and not only log innings, but be really good,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s been fun to watch him kind of ascent really quickly.”
Much of that ascent has come with an on-mound persona and competitive nature that stood out to teammates immediately.
Dodgers shortstop Miguel Rojas called Miller “a dog,” as someone who attacks the strike zone. His start against the New York Yankees on June 4 showed Rojas the young pitcher will not back down. Peralta added that Miller’s control in his first start showed him there was something special there. Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts pinpointed Miller’s fearlessness.
“He’s not scared to compete, and that’s something super important, especially in this level. You’re facing some good lineups, too,” Betts said. “He’s a fierce competitor. I think that’s what makes him so good.”
Peralta is thankful Miller is on his team and that he’s not facing him in the batter’s box.
“I’m not looking for it,” he joked. “I just wanna be on the field when he’s on the mound. That’s what I wanna do.”
Inconsistency could have been expected from such a young pitcher when Miller was called up. Betts admitted he had no expectations.
“Hell, I was watching just like everybody else was watching, you know?” he said. “I just happened to be on the field too.”
Rojas said it’s hard to tell if a rookie will contribute immediately in baseball, a sport full of ups and downs throughout a career. With such a high, the nature of the sport means Miller is bound to crash back down to Earth, Rojas admitted.
The Dodgers hope that high lasts until at least their injured starters return. And even when those pitchers become healthy, Betts believes Miller’s done enough to be a permanent part of the rotation.
“I’m glad he is here. He’s definitely here to help. I’m glad just for him,” Betts said. “He’s a really good kid and it’s good fun to talk to, and I know he’s gonna have a lot of success.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bobby Miller’s historic start saving Dodgers’ injury-riddled rotation
Source: Yahoo Sports