Wily veteran Miley provides 'huge lift' in season debut

Lefty logs four solid frames, keeps Reds at bay following lengthy rain-delayed start

April 11th, 2024

CINCINNATI -- Brewers 20-year-old phenom Jackson Chourio has already picked a nickname for left-hander : “Grandpa,” which is not too great a stretch for a 37-year-old on baseball’s second-youngest team. Brandon Woodruff lovingly calls Miley the “old mule.”

But even after more than 300 games in the Majors, the Louisianan still gets serious pre-start jitters, especially on a day Miley was making the first start of his 14th season.

So, to quiet his adrenaline buzz prior to another Christian Yelich home run on another big night for the Brewers’ remodeled offense in Wednesday night’s 7-2 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, Miley, already in full uniform complete with spikes even though it was two hours before the scheduled first pitch of a game that would be pushed an additional one hour and 50 minutes later by rain, took a spot on one of the couches in manager Pat Murphy’s office.

Wade Miley sits in on manager Pat Murphy's media session prior to Wednesday night's game.Adam McCalvy/MLB.com

The skipper’s daily media session seemed a constructive place to pass some time.

Obvious first question: “Murph, what do you think you can get out of Miley tonight?”

Before Murphy could answer, Miley did.

“Seventy-five to 85 pitches,” he said confidently.

That wound up being an overshot. Coming off a season-opening stint on the injured list, Miley held the Reds to one run on one hit -- a single -- and two walks in four solid innings, with a costly (and contested) hit batsman. Miley threw 52 pitches, three fewer than in his lone Triple-A start on April 4 as he tested his left shoulder in the wake of an impingement.

Miley described his delivery in that game as “squirrelly,” especially out of the stretch. He talked his way back to the big league rotation anyway.

“He’s liable to go six shutout innings,” Murphy said before the game. “But really, his health is No. 1.”

Regard for Miley’s health won in the end, especially after a rain delay on a chilly, damp night. After filling the extra time with games of chess, checkers and dominoes, and buoyed by Yelich’s two-run homer in the top of the first inning (his fifth in 10 games played), then by three more Brewers runs in the second, Miley cleared four innings and called it a night with his team ahead, 6-1.

“I thought I probably could have stayed in, but it’s probably what’s best for us,” said Miley, who was backed up by three solid, and needed, innings from reliever Bryce Wilson. “I’m just excited to go out there and compete.”

Miley faced the minimum on 35 pitches through three hitless innings, with seven of the nine outs on the ground thanks to what he called “unbelievable” defense, mostly from third baseman Joey Ortiz and first baseman Jake Bauers.

In the fourth, a two-out walk and a disputed hit-by-pitch -- Jeimer Candelario leaned out over home plate and was clipped on the hand by a fastball in the strike zone -- led to a run on the Reds’ first hit, a Stuart Fairchild single.

But the back end of the play produced the final out of that inning and ended Miley’s abbreviated outing.

“Who knows,” said Reds manager David Bell, “with Wade as good as he looks out there, he’ll continue to get better for years to come.”

The Brewers are focused on navigating this year.

“You’ve got to look at his future and what’s best for him -- even though he’s approaching 50,” Murphy joked, before adding, “It was a huge lift. Just his tempo and the way he controlled the game early gave us breathing room. That’s another thing you can’t see in the box score.”

Said Wilson of the Miley experience: “You know it’s going to be quick. What he does for the clubhouse and bringing everybody together is awesome. It’s something every clubhouse should have. I don’t think it’s valued as much as it should be.”

Miley is the seventh starting pitcher employed by the Brewers through 11 team games, as well as a key to stabilizing things. When he and Jakob Junis were bothered in Spring Training by cranky shoulders, it thinned Milwaukee’s rotation to the point of peril, putting extra pressure on Freddy Peralta and Colin Rea to provide innings while young DL Hall eases into his first full season as a Major League starter, and Joe Ross resumes a regular workload following a second comeback from Tommy John surgery.

For Miley, this was a modest start. And a good start, too. He celebrated with a cold glass of milk courtesy of associate manager Rickie Weeks.

If that sounds a little unusual, it was a reminder of another question from the manager’s pregame media session: “Is it unusual for a pitcher to be in spikes two hours before the first pitch?”

“Not for the great ones,” Murphy said.