JUPITER, Fla. — The great writer Steve Rushin once described a heart that beat “like the drum riff from 'Wipeout,'” which is an appropriate description of one's ticker while facing a slider classified as “wipeout.”
Andrew Miller's got one. Or had one? We think he's still got one, though it wasn't thrown as effectively in 2018. It's still a pretty slippery slider. And the new Cardinals lefty reliever has made millions because of his wipeout slider. “It's my main pitch, really," he said. "It's not even a secondary pitch.”
Indeed, Miller is one of the rare pitchers who doesn't throw his fastball — or a form of it — as his primary pitch. It used to be, back with the Tigers, Marlins, Red Sox and Orioles.
But in 2015 with the Yankees, four years after he became a reliever, it happened. Then in 2016. And '17. And '18. The slider was Miller's primary pitch, as we sometimes see with lefty specialists. Of course, Miller became more than just a specialist. He became special. A game-changing, multi-inning, fire-putter-outer. He became Andrew Miller.
“I've kind of ridden it pretty hard,” Miller said Wednesday, the Cardinals' first day of official pitchers and catchers workouts (in other words, the first time he wore the official MILLER 21 jersey and white pants). “It's the pitch I throw more often than my fastball, it's a pitch it's kind of evolved over the years, but for the most part, it's probably not that different than what I threw in college or high school. I've tweaked it and had certain people put their stamp on it in a sense, but it's a pitch I think that came pretty naturally to me.”
Miller talked about his slider, and other topics, on Wednesday afternoon ... and after the rains delayed the Cards' workouts.
The tantalizing pitch flings out of the hand of the 6-foot-7 Miller. In his greatest season, 2016, Miller's slider had an astonishing 47 percent swings-and-misses per swing. Last season, it was around 37. But Miller battled injuries last season, posting a 4.24 ERA and an average 1.38 WHIP, though his strikeout rate per nine innings was still a rather acceptable 11.9.
As for his previously injured knee, the 33-year-old Miller said: “It's good, I feel strong, I feel awesome. I'm looking forward to getting into action and playing that long season. I think I'm up for it. I have a little chip on my shoulder, I think I've got something to prove. … I think that just in general in baseball, the game has gotten younger and younger, you know? My hope is to buck that trend.”
This spring, Miller reassured that he doesn't have any limitations on the mound or in the weight room -- and that he sees spring as a time to build arm strength.
“You are in a sense," he said. "But you can't replicate game action, until you get into it, or at least for me, that's been my experience. But I feel like I'm in good shape. My bullpens have gone well coming here. I feel like I've done a lot of work to put myself in good shape, so I'm looking forward to proving that and finding that out. ...
“ I certainly value getting those (spring training) experiences – I've had spring trainings that have gone almost flawlessly and then had a rough start to the season, and I've had spring trainings that have been a mess, and I got off to a great start. So, you know, it's a process, there's a reason we have it – I'm here to take advantage of it. You know, I do expect to pitch a good bit and really fine tune things, because I want to be sharp once the season starts.”