MILWAUKEE -- Astros left-hander Wade Miley prefers spending time on a fishing boat over spending time on Twitter, so he relies on agent Tom O’Connell to keep up with the chatter around baseball. And yes, Miley is aware that a healthy segment of the Brewers’ fanbase has watched his success this season with more than a mild dose of frustration.
“I wish it wouldn’t be like that,” Miley said Monday, when he returned to Miller Park with the Astros for the start of a two-game series in which he isn’t scheduled to pitch.
But it is like that, and it’s not difficult to see why. Miley was effective when healthy for the Brewers in 2018 but got away for a $4.5 million, one year deal with Houston and has gone 13-4 with a 3.06 ERA in his first 28 starts of 2019 for an Astros team with championship aspirations. The Brewers made an offer, Miley confirmed, but ultimately stocked the Opening Day rotation with three young pitchers from within the system: Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta.
Woodruff emerged as an All-Star but Burnes and Peralta didn’t pan out, combining for an 8.27 ERA in 12 starts before demotions. The Brewers entered Monday with the fourth-worst starting rotation in the National League by ERA (4.70), which was better than only the Giants, Pirates and Rockies.
“It’s a business,” Miley said. “And at the same time, if you’re in [GM David Stearns’] shoes, you had Freddy, you had Corbin Burnes, these guys are really good. Like, I understand. You can’t just throw them in Triple-A forever. It just didn’t work out. If it works out, nobody says a word. So it’s hindsight. …
“I think they’re going to turn out to be great Major Leaguers, it’s just a matter of time. And Woody is unbelievable. That same thing that has happened to Woodruff could just as easily [have been] Burnes. Burnes could improve just like that, and Freddy. The talent is there, it just didn’t work out. You have to build confidence and stuff like that.”
Miley knows that firsthand. When he signed a Minor League deal to join the Brewers in February 2018, he was coming off a miserable season in Baltimore in which he went 8-15 with a 5.61 ERA and led the Majors with 93 walks. Since then, he’s 18-6 with a 2.89 ERA in 236 2/3 regular-season innings for the Brewers and Astros.
“It’s hard to pitch up here, especially when you struggle early,” Miley said. “The struggle, when your numbers are really bad, you’re trying to get them back. And it just snowballs. It’s hard to pitch like that. As a hitter, it’s hard to play like that. I talked to [Jesus Aguilar] in Tampa the other day. He got off to a slow start here and he’s constantly chasing numbers. Instead of chasing a good pitch to hit, he’s chasing hits. It’s hard to play like that.”
Miley chose not to say how close the Brewers came to matching the Astros’ offer, saying he didn’t want to create bad blood.
Was it at least close?
“I mean, it wasn’t close enough, obviously,” Miley said. “And it was getting late in the year. It was kind of the same as the year before when I signed here late on a Minor League deal. It’s like, I’m the type of person that I want to pitch. I don’t want to drag this thing out into Spring Training again. I just told my agent, ‘I want a job.’ Houston’s close to home. It’s nice. It’s been great. I went with it and no looking back, no regrets. There’s no hard feelings anywhere.”
• Mike Moustakas returned to the Brewers’ lineup Monday after missing five starts with a bruised left hand and Ryan Braun was back in action after missing two starts with a stiff back. But Lorenzo Cain remained sidelined by a bruised left kneecap.
“The concern is it’s just bothering him a lot,” manager Craig Counsell said. “It significantly impacts the way he can run. It's just painful. Frankly, we're hoping a little bit of rest gets him ready and gets him better. We're going to face a bunch of left-handers [in the Brewers’ next series against the Cubs] so we're going to need his bat in that series. He's been adamant about using him if we need him so we still will.”
Asked about the nature of Cain’s injury, Counsell said. “It's a bruise. Look at the play when he slid and threw out Matt Carpenter. That's a play that's happened a number of times this year and a play that really aggravates it.”
• Brandon Woodruff (oblique) threw another bullpen session Monday, this time with a little more behind it than that touch-and-feel session at Wrigley Field on Friday. He topped 20 pitches, threw his full arsenal and said he came out of it feeling good.
• Keston Hiura, who suffered a strained left hamstring in Friday’s loss to the Cubs and landed on the 10-day injured list, said the soreness had already dissipated. He began rehab on Monday and hopes to be back in about two weeks.