Mariners rookie Bryce Miller chats about historic start, fastball, more

May 27, 2023, 1:21 PM

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Detroit Tigers on May 13, 2023. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

(Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

It’s hard to find a player who’s had a better start to their MLB career than Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Bryce Miller.

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In five starts, the young right-hander has a 1.15 ERA and 28 strikeouts to just three walks in 31 1/3 innings. He’s also only 16 baserunners so far, good for a miniscule 0.511 WHIP, which is the best WHIP in MLB history for a pitcher in their first five career starts.

It’s a start that few, including Miller, could have envisioned.

“I definitely didn’t think that I would come out and be this successful right out of the rip,” Miller told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Friday. “Everything’s been going well, I’ve been over the plate and got a good defense behind me.”

On top of showcasing great command, Miller has an electric fastball that sits at 95.1 mph and has 98th percentile spin rate, per Statcast.

Miller has used that fastball early and often, as it’s accounted for 70.5% of his pitches so far.

“I mean, I’m definitely throwing a lot more fastballs than I thought I would be,” he said. “… So I’ve just been trusting the stuff and throwing whatever (catcher Cal Raleigh) calls. He’s called a lot of fastballs, so I’ve thrown a lot and it’s worked out so far.”

It’s safe to say Miller has all the confidence in the world in that pitch right now.

“It’s been a pitch that I’ve been able to locate and I’ve commanded it well. There hasn’t been very many barrels on it,” he said. “It’s kind of the thing where we’re not going to change something that’s working, and it’s definitely been working, so there hasn’t really been any reason to stray away from it. In Detroit, they kind of showed they were on it a little bit early, so I threw the least amount of fastballs there, but so far all five starts has been pretty heavy fastball usage, and it’s worked.”

Facing the A’s twice

In his first five starts, Miller has faced four teams, with two of those outings coming against the Oakland A’s.

Despite seeing Oakland twice in the span of a month, the game plan really didn’t change for Miller, as he leaned on the fastball in a major way.

In two starts against the A’s, Miller has thrown 12 innings of 1-run ball while allowing only five baserunners and picking up 16 strikeouts.

“Everything was the same, honestly. Coming out of out of minor leagues, whenever I would throw to a team twice, it would be twice in a week, so getting the A’s twice in a month doesn’t seem quite as bad,” Miller said. “But the game plan was the same. I mean, really, the game plan has been the same all five games so far. It’s attack hitters early and until they prove I need to change, I’m probably not going to change.”

Learning from other Seattle Mariners pitchers

Miller has been electric, making an already great Mariners pitching staff even better.

Miller now finds himself in the same rotation as veterans Luis Castillo and Marco Gonzales, as well as two young and former top prospects Logan Gilbert and George Kirby.

“These guys are here for a reason. We have a great staff and a great bullpen and you can learn a lot from a lot of these guys here,” Miller said. “But for me, we’re all different pitchers, so you have to take a little bit from each. Nobody’s the same in this staff, so it’s like sit back and observe and if I can take a piece from Logan or from Kirby or Castillo or Marco, I’ll take it. But a lot of is just learning like situationally what to do, and then getting better on my own with the stuff that benefits me from what I can take from others.”

What’s helped Miller in his transition from the minors to the Mariners is looking back at how Gilbert and Kirby broke into the big leagues, which was very similar to his path.

Gilbert debuted in May of 2021 while Kirby was May of 2022. Miller debuted on May 1 of this year.

Additionally, all three were the Mariners’ top pitching prospect at the time of their first MLB start.

“The main thing that I learned from just watching Kirby and Gilbert the last couple years was me coming into big league camp this year for the first time, I was able to know that the year before, Kirby was in the exact same spot and the year before that, Gilbert was in the same spot and they’ve had success in the big leagues the last two years,” Miller said. “So it definitely helped me out with keeping me comfortable and knowing that I was in the right spot, and I was where I needed to be just by seeing them do it the last couple years.”

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