Yanks could have a good one in recently signed Shelby Miller
LAKELAND, Fla. — The Yankees need more starting pitching, right? So how would you feel if they signed a guy who went 25-18 with a 3.41 ERA over a two-year span?
The Yankees did sign that guy on Sunday. It was righthander Shelby Miller. The only problem: that two-year span was 2013-14 with St. Louis. From 2018-21, Miller had ERAs of 10.69, 8.59 and 9.24 (he opted out of the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season).
Still, Miller has a live arm and is only 31 years old. He was an All-Star in 2015, when he went 6-17 for Atlanta but also had a 3.02 ERA (5-5, 2.38 in the first half; 1-12, 3.83 in the second half). That was his last full season because of injuries (Tommy John surgery and back woes).
He pitched in 13 games last year for the Cubs and Pirates, all out of the bullpen.
The Yankees signed Miller to a minor-league contract and invited him to major-league spring training. He graciously and gratefully accepted the invitation. So there he was in the clubhouse in Tampa on Monday, getting ready to throw a bullpen session in front of an interested audience that included manager Aaron Boone.
“He looked pretty sharp, actually,” Boone said after watching Miller throw and then arriving in Lakeland for the Yankees’ 11-7 victory over the Tigers. “First bullpen, I thought he looked good.
“I think what stood out to me just watching him again today — and I saw him a lot early in his career in St. Louis — you can tell he’s an athletic guy, athletic delivery, so there should be that repeatability in there. Seeing the way it’s coming out here and the things I’ve heard about some of his stuff last year, he still has the arm strength and the stuff to be a quality pitcher.”
Miller, the only major-leaguer ever with the first name of Shelby, is going to prepare to begin the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a reliever. Boone said he’d like to get Miller into a game by the end of this week and wouldn’t rule out eventually projecting him as a starting option.
“Feel like stuff-wise, there was some good things that we saw last year, and we’ll just see,” Boone said. “I don’t want to put a lid on it. Let’s just see what we have. We know we’ve got a guy that’s capable and talented. Let’s see if we can unlock some more things.”
Said Miller: “I think stuff-wise, some of the stuff I have right now is better than it’s been, even early in my career. I know I had a good fastball back then. Never really had like an off-speed pitch that got guys out. I’ve developed a slider and it’s been pretty good. Just kind of develop that, see where it takes me. I think there’s still plenty left in the tank.”
The Yankees seem to be set with their rotation (Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery and Nestor Cortes). Is that enough? Probably not.
Depth possibilities include youngsters Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, Michael King and Monday’s starter against the Tigers, Deivi Garcia.
In his second exhibition start, Garcia, 22, showed a crisp 96-mph fastball while allowing one run in three innings (a third-inning home run by Dustin Garneau). In his previous appearance, he threw two shutout innings after a disastrous 2021 in the majors and Triple-A in which his velocity was down and his command was off.
Gil, 23, who gave the Yankees a late-season boost in 2021 in six starts, threw three scoreless innings of relief with four strikeouts.
“Deivi and Luis were both really good,” Boone said. “Command, stuff. It’s been good seeing that.”
Schmidt is scheduled to start against the Phillies on Tuesday. Boone said he sees King as a reliever but is not ruling him out as a starting candidate at some point.