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Inbox: Will Shelby bounce back in 2017?

D-backs beat reporter Steve Gilbert answers fans' questions
March 28, 2017

With Opening Day approaching fast, now is the perfect time to answer some fan questions in another edition of the D-backs Inbox.Is it realistic to expect Shelby [Miller] to improve over last season enough to make a difference in the rotation? Why does everyone think this year will be better

With Opening Day approaching fast, now is the perfect time to answer some fan questions in another edition of the D-backs Inbox.
Is it realistic to expect Shelby [Miller] to improve over last season enough to make a difference in the rotation? Why does everyone think this year will be better for him, just because of Spring Training?
-- Carl, Phoenix

First, no matter what happened this spring, I think there would be a general expectation that Miller will be better this year simply because he struggled so badly last year and has tremendous talent. Adding to the optimism is the way he has not only pitched this spring -- hitting the upper 90s in his starts -- but also because he seems to be in a much better place mentally than he was last year. I do think he will have a good year in 2017.
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What are you going to be watching for in April from this team?
-- Pete, Tempe, Ariz.

I think it's very important that the D-backs get off to a good start this year. Yes, it's a long season, but I truly believe that a poor start last year really set a bad tone for them and proved to be something they were unable to overcome. On Opening Day last year, Zack Greinke got hit hard and Miller followed that up with a poor performance. The schedule-makers did them no favors, however. They open against the Giants and Indians, and their first road trip is a long one, including seven games combined vs. the Giants and Dodgers.
Who have been the most impressive prospects in camp this spring?
-- Don, Glendale, Ariz.

There were a number of guys who made good impressions. I hate to list them because I know I'm going to end up forgetting some, but ones that jump out are left-handers Anthony Banda and Jared Miller and infielder Ildemaro Vargas.

Steve, please explain the option rules.
-- John, Phoenix

There's a reason most teams have one person whose main responsibility is keeping track of rules such as the option rules, because it's complicated. There are all sorts of exceptions, but let me give you the basics as I understand them and hopefully that will help. One of the aspects that confuses fans the most is that a player can be optioned to the Minors as many times as a team wants over the course of a season and it counts as just one option. The next year, no matter how many times he's sent down, that counts as one option as well. Players get three options -- again, there are exceptions -- and after that, a player must be placed on waivers in order to be sent to the Minors and can be claimed by another team.
Which of the NRIs [non-roster invitees] do you think will be most impactful this season?
-- Kevin M., Phoenix

With non-roster invites J.J. Hoover and Tom Wilhelmsen set to make the Opening Day roster, I will go with one of those guys. If you're looking for one who will not make the Opening Day roster but could have a big impact this year at some point, I would say Jared Miller.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.