GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For the second time at Reds camp -- and the first since it officially opened a day earlier, new left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley worked off the mound in a bullpen session on Friday.
“It’s good. Everything is great,” Miley said.
Miley, who signed a two-year, $15 million contract to join Cincinnati in December, is working with pitching coach Derek Johnson again after the two previously worked together on the Brewers in 2018. Last season, Miley was with the Astros.
“He’s a mastermind when it comes to this,” Miley said of Johnson. “I left a great one when it comes to Brent Strom, and DJ and Brent are on the same page in the way they teach things. I’m looking forward to working with [Johnson] again.”
Miley, 33, was 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 33 starts and 167 ⅓ innings last season for Houston. Through Aug. 9, he was one of the best starters in the American League with a 2.99 ERA. But an 8.69 ERA over his final nine starts, including 16.68 in five September starts, derailed what was an otherwise strong year.
Three of those final five outings lasted one inning or less. Johnson believed Miley was likely tipping his pitches. The two haven’t delved too far into the corrections just yet.
“We’re just trying to get back into the groove of things right now,” Miley said. “That stuff hasn’t [come up]. You can’t really find any of that stuff out until you face a hitter anyway. I’m just trying to get right, get strong and extended and be ready for the season.”
When Miley was in Milwaukee for ‘18, he was 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts while his club was 12-4 on the days he pitched. In four postseason starts, he owned a 1.23 ERA.
Miley joined what could be a top rotation that also features Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani.
“Most of what I heard from DJ is just the type of competitor [Miley] is,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Another great teammate that has been on good teams and has so much to offer in that way.”
What about Mahle?
When Miley signed, that effectively ended young right-hander Tyler Mahle's bid to crack the starting five during camp -- barring the unexpected. Mahle’s stuff and makeup still excite the organization, however, even after an often poor 2019 season where he went 3-12 with a 5.14 ERA in 25 starts.
Bell spoke with Mahle during the offseason after Miley was signed.
“The one time that we talked about it, his answer was so perfect that I’m like ‘This is going to work out one way or another for him.’ People in this organization, including me, believe in him,” Bell said. “The results were what they were last year, but as we all know, it’s deeper than that and there was so much to take from that year, so much development and growth, we really believe he’s right on the brink of a lot of success. Don’t forget about this guy. Basically the response was, ‘Hey, I’m just coming in to do whatever I can to pitch as well as I can, compete and let it play out. I will contribute and do whatever I can.’”
Bell said that Mahle will still be prepared for starting in 2020 as he provides depth behind the first five starters.
“He understands the situation but that’s the perfect way to approach it, however it shakes out,” Bell said. “I have no doubt and he has no doubt that he’s going to contribute to our team this year. It was a great conversation.”
Shortstop depth thin
The Reds have an overabundance of outfielders and depth at many other positions, but one spot that lacks options is shortstop. Cincinnati will start Freddy Galvis, but Alex Blandino is the only other player from last year’s club with significant shortstop experience.
Bell plans to have utility player Kyle Farmer get a lot of work at shortstop this spring. Farmer, who can play at catcher, first base, second base and third base, made one appearance at shortstop last season. There were an additional 10 games there over his Minor League career.
“I think people underestimate how he plays that position,” Bell said. “I would have no hesitation having Kyle play an extended period of time at short. You’re right, though, we don’t have the depth at that position as we do at pretty much every other position. It’s a consideration.”
All Reds pitchers and catchers were in camp on Friday, with the exception of new signee Pedro Strop, who was expected in the evening.
Two non-roster relievers recovering from surgeries will be slightly behind the others with their throwing programs. Right-hander Nate Jones, who had flexor mass surgery on his right forearm in May, is not expected to participate in Cactus League games until the schedule’s second week. Lefty Jesse Biddle, who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September, will be ready for games soon after Jones.