03/25/12 8:58 PM ET
Prospect Miley impressing with baseball smarts
By AJ Cassavell / Special to MLB.com
When left-handed pitcher Wade Miley is posted at his locker, however, the odds for tranquility shift to lottery-win or lightning-strike rare.
In his second year in big-league camp, Miley is fitting right into the D-backs already talkative clubhouse. He enjoys being the center of attention -- even if that sometimes means being the butt of a few jokes. To Miley, that's what being a part of a team means.
"Everybody in this clubhouse gets along real well, so it makes it easier," he said. "Everybody in the clubhouse is joking around with this and that. It's better on the field because we're always hanging out, we're always playing golf together, so it just makes everything easier."
It's hard to mention Miley's name around the D-backs players without eliciting a laugh or a reference to his roots in the Louisiana Bayou.
"If you're looking for a smile or a joke or anything, he embodies all that," said right-hander Josh Collmenter, Miley's longtime teammate.
Miley knows several of the characters on the History Channel show "Swamp People," a TV series doccumenting alligator hunting in Louisiana. On a number of occasions, he's bought crawfish from the family of one of the main characters, Troy Landry.
He's been alligator hunting, too, but doesn't necessarily use the same techniques as the folks in the show, who go after gators in made-for-TV fashion. Collmenter said plenty of Miley's jokes and the team's jokes about Miley relate to his background and his ability to "summon all the stereotypes and stigmas of backwoods Louisiana."
But even with Miley's joke-telling, fun-loving clubhouse personality, Collmenter pointed out that Miley is as reliable as they come in his baseball preparation.
"Off the field, he comes off as kind of aloof, maybe not [having] the greatest street smarts or anything like that," Collmenter said. "But then you see him go to work on the mound and he's as smart, baseball-wise, as anybody."
Miley tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday, dropping his spring ERA to 3.27. He's coming off a season in which he pitched in eight games for the big-league club and posted a 4-2 record and a 4.50 ERA.
The club's pitching staff is deep enough that Miley likely won't start the season on the roster. But he'll be available as a starter or a reliever, should anyone on staff suffer some sort of injury or a setback.
Miley's biggest focus this spring, however, has been simpler than any roster spot. He just wants to throw strikes.
"I walked a lot of people last year, and I kind of spent a lot of time in the offseason thinking about that," Miley said. "I thought about that a lot. I just want to locate better, throw more strikes, establish the fastball a little better and try to pitch off the fastball without giving out free passes."
Obviously manager Kirk Gibson would like to see Miley in the strike zone more often, but it's the way Miley seems to fight through those walks that has Gibson impressed.
"The biggest thing about Wade Miley is he's really competitive out there," Gibson said. "He gets into [trouble] and battles his way out of it. He's very good at it. He did it last year and it seems to be one of his good traits."
Gibson said for Miley to succeed, he'll have to make sure his velocity doesn't fluctuate in the latter part of his outings. But to Gibson, the enthusiasm and attitude are exactly where they need to be.
Miley said his mindset has changed from last spring to this one. He feels more relaxed around the complex, and that stems from being around guys he's familiar with.
"I just know people a little better," Miley said. "I've spent a little more time with them, so it's easier to just go around and get into conversations with them."
He always seems to be doing just that. Sunday he didn't make it through his interview without turning to teammate Joe Saunders and asking, "Help me with that one, Joe," when asked what he was working on mechanically this spring.
Saunders laughed and said, "No," prompting an ever-grinning Miley to answer for himself.
"I'm just trying to throw strikes," Miley said. "I haven't thought about trying to change that."
AJ Cassavell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.