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Miley makes good impression in rotation race

Left-hander strikes out five over 2 1/3 innings Thursday vs. D-backs
MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PHOENIX -- It will take more than a good first impression to make the team, but Brewers newcomer Wade Miley's strong start sure beats the alternative.

The veteran left-hander, bidding for one of two open spots in the Brewers' starting rotation, continued his early surge by striking out five batters in 2 1/3 scoreless innings and touching 94 mph in a Thursday start against the D-backs. On Friday morning, Miley stressed that there is a lot of Cactus League baseball to play before Brewers officials set an Opening Day roster.

PHOENIX -- It will take more than a good first impression to make the team, but Brewers newcomer Wade Miley's strong start sure beats the alternative.

The veteran left-hander, bidding for one of two open spots in the Brewers' starting rotation, continued his early surge by striking out five batters in 2 1/3 scoreless innings and touching 94 mph in a Thursday start against the D-backs. On Friday morning, Miley stressed that there is a lot of Cactus League baseball to play before Brewers officials set an Opening Day roster.

"There's still a lot of room for improvement," said Miley, who signed a Minor League deal the day Brewers pitchers and catchers reported to camp. "I just have to keep grinding away and make it a tough decision on them when it comes time."

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Where does he see room for improvement?

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"I think yesterday I fell behind some hitters," Miley said. "I need to be more aggressive early in the count."

Throwing strikes tops Miley's agenda after his 93 walks led the Majors by a wide margin last season. A free agent coming off a 5.61 ERA, he went home to Louisiana and reconnected with an old summer league coach, Chris Westcott, who suggested some fixes.

In the process, Miley rediscovered his slider. It gives him six pitches, if you count his four-seam and two-seam fastballs separately. Miley also throws a cutter that's separate from his slider, plus a changeup and a curveball. The slider used to be his out pitch, but Miley had gotten away from it.

"He looks ready to go," Brewers catcher Jett Bandy said. "He looks [like he's in] midseason [form], to be honest."

As for the extra zip on his fastball, Miley said, "I don't know, it's early in spring but I've been throwing a lot. I'm normally 88-92 mph and I'll bump to 93, 94 randomly, so I don't think we're going to see much of an increase.

"'Velo' will get you in trouble if you're not careful, especially if you're a pitcher like me. If I try to throw the ball really hard, it's going to flatten out. I'm going to lose location. I'm a lot better off when I'm locating the heater and working off that."

Video: Counsell on Miley's chances to make team

The Brewers currently have six pitchers vying for two open spots: left-handers Brent Suter (who has one walk and four strikeouts in four hitless spring innings so far) and Miley, and right-handers Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra, Aaron Wilkerson and Brandon Woodruff.

Miley is the only player in that group not already on the 40-man roster, which is just one of the factors beyond Spring Training performance that will figure into decisions.

"Those are the jobs of evaluators," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "To balance everything out and consider that a good first impression is going to influence you, but you have to take it all into perspective against the rest of the time and the rest of the performances. It's a human nature thing to be challenged by our first impressions."

Is Miley eyeing other players' performances with the rotation race in mind?

"Man, I'm pulling for these guys," Miley said. "I think that's the best way to go about this thing. If everybody is successful, it's better. The reality is there are 29 other teams, so if we're all successful, it's good for all of us. I'm thankful to be in a competition like this."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Wade Miley