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Miley makes Reds' rotation among NL's best

@m_sheldon
December 18, 2019

CINCINNATI -- As a free agent, the Reds enticed left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley in many ways. His former pitching coach from Milwaukee, Derek Johnson. A former Brewers teammate in Mike Moustakas, who signed a four-year deal with the Reds on Dec. 5. A rotation that has a good chance

CINCINNATI -- As a free agent, the Reds enticed left-handed starting pitcher Wade Miley in many ways.

His former pitching coach from Milwaukee, Derek Johnson.

A former Brewers teammate in Mike Moustakas, who signed a four-year deal with the Reds on Dec. 5.

A rotation that has a good chance of being the envy of the National League.

Put it all together and Miley was thrilled to sign a two-year, $15 million contract with Cincinnati, which was made official on Wednesday. The deal came with a $10 million club option for 2022 that carries a $1 million buyout. Miley will earn $6 million in 2020 and $8 million in ’21 with an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses based on innings pitched.

The Reds rotation is now comprised of 2019 All-Stars in Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray, a 2018 All-Star in Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani and Miley, a 2012 All-Star.

“Maybe they can teach me a few things,” Miley said. “I’ve been a fan of Sonny Gray. I played with Bauer in Arizona when he was young.”

Miley, 33, was 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 33 starts and 167 1/3 innings for the Astros last season.

“It’s nice to have a left-handed pitcher on the staff,” Reds general manager Nick Krall said. “We haven’t had that in a while. He’s pitched really well the last couple of years and has improved and progressed. He’s a guy who really meshed with [Johnson] and made a lot of progress two years ago in Milwaukee and really built on that last year.”

Miley was on his way to be one of the top American League starters last season, with a 2.99 ERA through Aug. 9, before his performance took a nosedive late in the second half. He posted an 8.69 ERA over his final nine starts, including a 16.68 ERA over his five starts in September. Three of those starts in the last month of the regular season lasted one inning or less.

Houston left Miley off its AL Championship Series and World Series rosters.

“I’m just going to figure out how to get outs again,” Miley said. “I know everybody is freaked out about the September I had. I just went through a rough patch. The confidence was no good. I’ll just try to move past that and start fresh and get back to the basics.”

It turned out that Miley was tipping his pitches.

“We figured out and saw some things that he was doing,” Krall said. “Hey, he knows it as well and it’s a pretty public thing. Look, those things happen. We’ll regroup and come in and he’ll be good to go.”

Miley’s career was at a crossroads of sorts after three straight poor seasons from 2015-17. With the Red Sox, Mariners and Orioles, he was 28-39 with a 5.10 ERA in 94 starts. Before the ’18 season, Miley signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers but missed much of the first half with groin and oblique injuries.

Once he joined the Brewers' big league rotation, Miley clicked while working under Johnson. He was 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts, but Milwaukee was 12-4 when he pitched. Miley also had a 1.23 ERA in four postseason starts.

“We hit it off in Milwaukee for whatever reason,” Miley said. “The way he communicates, the way he gets things across to me and the way he picks out things in my delivery, he kind of lets me be me.”

Miley gets to reunite with his former teammate Moustakas, who signed his $64 million contract with a Cincinnati club that’s determined to contend in 2020.

Knowing Moustakas well, Miley believes that he can be a big plus for the Reds. Both players have good reputations in their past clubhouses.

“That year in ’18 when we went on that run in Milwaukee, when Moose got there, just in a couple of weeks you just felt the clubhouse turn,” Miley said. “The energy and attitude he comes to the clubhouse with, he’s always talking about winning. It’s ‘Hey we’re going to win the World Series.’ You hear that enough, you start believing. He just tries to be positive with everybody.”

The addition of Miley means the Reds will have to figure out what to do with young right-hander Tyler Mahle, who was initially the leading candidate for the fifth starter spot. The club hasn’t determined if it would keep Mahle starting at Triple-A Louisville or use him as a reliever in the big leagues.

Regardless, Krall expects that Mahle will be needed at some point.

“We ended up having Alex Wood, who made seven starts last year,” Krall said. “You always end up using more than just five starters. The more depth you can have, the better your team is going to be, the better the guy who comes up to the big leagues whenever you need to have one.”

Having pitched at home ballparks with short left fields like Boston with the Green Monster and Houston with its Crawford Boxes, Miley wasn’t worried about the cozier dimensions of Great American Ball Park.

“Not at all,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to try to keep the ball on the ground as much as possible. The ballpark is the ballpark. You can’t worry about that stuff. At least I don’t think about it too much. I’m going to come out and try to execute a game plan and put the team into a position to be successful and go from there.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.