08/08/2002 6:24 pm ET
MLBeat: Miller to begin rehab
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
When veteran D-Backs' catcher Damian Miller went on the disabled list with strained ligaments in his lower back July 24, he joked the team "won't miss me." Now that he's almost healthy, he reiterated that statement Thursday. "They didn't miss me."
Luckily for the Diamondbacks, Chad Moeller got off to a solid start and regular backup Rod Barajas finally discovered his hitting stroke, coinciding with the club's seven-game winning streak and five wins in the last six games.
Will the team keep three catchers through the season, with September call-ups only a few weeks away? Could be.
"It does give us options," said Miller. "Obviously it's what Bob Brenly thinks, but I would have no problem with it whatsoever. What do these guys have to prove in the minor leagues? In case one of us gets tweaked up or I hurt my back again, it's good to have two catchers. Rod and Chad have done a tremendous job."
Miller will start a rehab assignment for Triple-A Tucson in Salt Lake City this weekend, then hopefully rejoin the parent club for its trip to Cincinnati.
"I'll see how my back responds," said the All-Star catcher. "I've been swinging the bat the last couple of days and it hasn't hurt, so that's a good sign. But I can still feel it. There was a strained ligament and it has to heal."
Barajas doing well: Barajas served mainly as Miguel Batista's batterymate this season, but struggled at the plate. He recently snapped an 0-for-11 spell and he's hitting .205 overall.
Barajas, however, sees nothing but good times ahead. With help from hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, the 26-year-old has learned to be more patient at the plate and not try to pull every pitch.
Victimized by outside pitches during his pro career, Barajas is starting to spray the ball more, wait that split-second and use his hands to power the ball to the opposite field.
"Getting out there every fifth day with only three or four at-bats isn't enough to keep you on track," said Barajas, who enjoyed a 2-for-3 night Wednesday when he hit a homer and threw out two baserunners.
"It's tough when you've been pulling the ball your whole life," said the two-year veteran. "But I guess at 26 I'm finally learning to hit the ball to right field instead of trying to pull them, hitting them off the head of the bat and getting weak little fly balls."
Pitchers knew from videos that Barajas had a glaring weakness. His average dipped to .113 on May 29, but has slowly risen over the past few months. When Miller was placed on the DL, it gave Barajas more playing time, although Moeller gained the starting role.
"Playing more has helped out with my timing and if you have a couple of good games your confidence goes off the roof," he said. "Getting some key hits to pump up the ballclub helps me feel good about myself."
Fantasy edge: Reliever Greg Swindell perhaps isn't a long-ball threat -- for the other team -- any more. He was a fantasy player's nightmare earlier this season, surrendering seven homers over an 8 2/3-inning stretch spanning six games. But over the last 14 outings he's limited the opposition to a .182 average and he retired all six men he faced in a two-inning relief stint at New York Saturday.
Rich Draper covers the Diamondbacks for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.