In the past four seasons, Miley has made at least 29 starts and pitched more than 194 innings.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Even in the monotony that comes with a pitcher’s spring training throwing program, Wade Miley can’t and won’t slow down.
It’s not who he is. It’s not how he pitches. It’s embedded in him like the allegiance to his Louisiana roots.
Miley’s fast pace was noticeable in his first two Mariners bullpen sessions this week and even more glaring Friday when he threw his first live batting practice. During that eight-minute period in the baking Arizona sun, the left-hander was a no-nonsense presence on the mound.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a good time,” he said. “But when it comes down to that stuff, especially right now early in the year, trying to get that going again, I’m going to very serious about what I’m trying to get accomplished. It’s just part of it.”
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On Friday Miley worked fast in a rhythm and wouldn’t let anyone take him out of it. It was a reminder of the brief time Cliff Lee wore a Mariners uniform. There was no dawdling, fidgeting or adjusting. Get the ball. Get the sign. Throw the pitch.
“He doesn’t have a lot of movement to his delivery,” said teammate Stefen Romero, who batted against Miley. “There isn’t one thing you can focus on to get your timing. He works really quick, and he’s really smooth.”
It’s something Miley learned in his days at Southwestern Louisiana University, where he was a first-team all-conference pitcher in the underrated Southland Conference.
“My old college coach, Jay Artigues, that’s all him,” Miley said. “From the day I got to college, it was, ‘Don’t turn your back on the catcher, we’re not going to throw the ball around or anything.’
“All he wanted was pace and tempo. That stuck with me. I really liked pitching like that. Guys played good behind you. Defense loves it. Offense loves it. It’s been successful so far.”
According Fangraphs, Miley was the majors’ second-fastest worker in 2015, averaging 17.5 seconds in between pitches. It was fitting that the fastest worker was left-hander Mark Buerhle at 15.9 seconds.
In terms of fellow big-league pitchers, Miley has studied Buerhle more than any other.
“It’s working fast and being under control,” Miley said. “He does it. That’s kind of where I run into my problems. I’ll be going so fast that I get out of control. Sometimes I have to slow myself down. Buerhle does a great job of keeping the tempo of the game going. But also he’s staying who he is and not rushing out of his delivery. I’ve spent a lot of time watching him.”
They are similar pitchers. Miley isn’t overpowering. He relies on a sinking fastball that tops out at 92 to 93 mph, a slider, a cutter, a curve and a changeup. Everything should have a little movement.
“It’s location, location is so important,” Miley said. “I know a lot of guys throw so hard these days. Hitters have to hit 98-mph fastballs day in and day out now. But you don’t have to throw the ball that hard if you can locate and just pitch.”
Of the many offseason transactions made by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, perhaps the most unpopular among fans was the trade that sent highly regarded reliever Carson Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias to the Red Sox for Miley and hard-throwing reliever Jonathan Aro.
It was an exchange of left-handed starting pitchers and right-handed relievers. So why make the move?
Well, at the time, Hisashi Iwakuma appeared to be headed to the Dodgers on a three-year, $45 million contract and the Mariners’ rotation needed a reliable starter.
With the Red Sox having signed free agent David Price a week earlier, they had an abundance of starting pitching and made Miley available.
Even when the Mariners were able to sign Iwakuma after the Dodgers deal fell through, they still feel the addition of Miley is a benefit worth the cost.
The words “track record” have been used often this spring by Dipoto and manager Scott Servais. Miley has a track record of durability. In the past four seasons, he has made at least 29 starts and pitched more than 194 innings. Because Iwakuma and James Paxton have had injury issues and Nathan Karns and Taijuan Walker are entering their second full season in the big leagues, Miley’s stability is big.
“A tremendous strike thrower and works quick,” Servais said. “The big part of us acquiring him was he has a track record of carrying innings. There’s so many innings every team is going to play this year, and you have to account for it on the pitching side. You want your starters to take the bulk of those innings, and that’s what we plan on Wade helping do for us.”