PEORIA, Ariz. -- D-backs left-hander Jared Miller has followed Red Sox ace David Price's career closely as both are former standouts at Vanderbilt University who have crossed paths during offseason workouts there.A week before Spring Training, Miller mentioned to Price that he noticed Price had been throwing a shorter version
PEORIA, Ariz. -- D-backs left-hander Jared Miller has followed Red Sox ace David Price's career closely as both are former standouts at Vanderbilt University who have crossed paths during offseason workouts there.
A week before Spring Training, Miller mentioned to Price that he noticed Price had been throwing a shorter version of his slider, almost a cutter.
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"We were playing catch one day and he showed me the grip," Miller said. "It was something I toyed around with a little bit. This was literally like one week before Spring Training last year. I just started messing around with it playing catch."
At the time, Miller was coming off a so-so first full season as a starter in the D-backs' system and during Spring Training the team told him they were going to move him to the bullpen.
"I figured, 'Why not give it a shot?'" Miller said of incorporating his cutter into his repertoire. "It's really worked out for me."
That might be a bit of an understatement.
The 6-foot-7 Miller rocketed through the D-backs' system in 2016, beginning back where he finished the year before at Class A Kane County he moved to Visalia in the California League, then to Double-A Mobile and he reached as high as Triple-A Reno.
Along the way, the cutter became not only a pitch he was able to throw consistently for strikes, but he also a pitch that he was able to get swing-and-miss strikes on.
"It's easy for me to throw," Miller said of the cutter. "It's easy for me to keep down in the zone. Sometimes I may go to it a little too much, but I enjoy it because I think it's a hard pitch to key in on because it moves a little different every time."
As evidence of that, some of the D-backs' hitters who faced Miller in live batting practice sessions called the pitch a slider rather than a cutter.
Regardless, Miller's regular-season success earned him a spot in the Arizona Fall League and he dominated in allowing six hits over 18 1/3 scoreless innings.
That prompted the D-backs to invite Miller to his first big league camp where he has caught the eye of first-year manager Torey Lovullo, and has a legitimate chance at making the Opening Day roster.
"Presence, composure on the mound, attacking the zone," Lovullo said of what he's seen from Miller. "It looks like there's a large degree of fearlessness and belief in himself. All of those are really good ingredients for a young pitcher."
The success he had against top prospects in the Fall League helped Miller's confidence coming into the spring.
"This group they are preaching competition and I think that's one of the things that I've been used to dating back to my days at Vanderbilt," Miller said of the new Arizona coaching staff. "So, I'm comfortable with this. If I can just focus on competing with myself to be the best version of myself then I'm putting myself in a good situation."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.