Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
An electric fastball carried Bobby Miller through the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, but command of and success with secondary pitches are proving to be key to his early staying power at the Major League level.
Facing the New York Yankees in front of a national audience for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, Miller effectively spun a reworked slider that induced 11 swings and misses. Miller changed his grip and shape of the pitch after consulting with Dodgers assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness.
“Throwing it harder, making it a little bit tighter, getting rid of that big shape,” Miller explained of his new slider. “I think throwing it harder and keeping it to closer to my fastball gets me more swings.”
Along with his slider, the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect utilized a sinker en route to setting a season high with seven strikeouts.
In his MLB debut against the Atlanta Braves, Miller had almost an even usage of his fastball and slider. Then in a start against the Washington Nationals, he went fastball heavy.
While the right-hander is capable of touching triple digits with ease, he’s aware of needing to rely on other offerings as well.
“Mostly every team is going to be ready for the fastball,” Miller said. “They know I’ve got a good fastball, so I have to have my other pitches working as well.”
Young Dodgers pitchers working on their slider is not a new development. Ryan Pepiot previously explained his focus on improving the pitch, and Michael Grove put more conviction behind the slider in a start this season.
For Miller, the Dodgers simply will rely on more of the same. Even with a no-decision against the Yankees, Miller is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts thus far.
Dave Roberts impressed by Bobby Miller’s slider
Heading into the showdown with the Yankees on national TV, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts voiced confidence in Miller’s ability to handle the setting. The 24-year-old delivered, and Roberts couldn’t heap enough praise on him.
“Man, he’s really impressed. You never know how young players are going to handle moments. This is probably the most adrenaline he’s ever felt, the biggest game for him, and he just handled it so well,” Roberts said after the Dodgers’ 4-1 loss.
“After that first hitter, I thought he settled in. That first hitter, I thought he was overthrowing. But just to be able to recalibrate, get back in the strike zone, the slider was certainly the story. A lot of swing and miss. The fastball obviously had a lot of life.
“I thought the slider was good and I’d seen it on video, but not like this. So I don’t know if it’s more of a heightened conviction, focus, whatever it is. This slider, it’s a real pitch. I didn’t appreciate how good the slider was.”
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