Jared Miller was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 11th round in 2014 out of Vanderbilt University. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Miller is a 6-7, 240 pound southpaw currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Initially a starting pitcher, he was moved to the bullpen in 2016 and had a fine season, pitching at four levels and finishing the year in Triple-A, posting a 2.64 ERA overall in 61 innings with an 80/23 K/BB, only 36 hits allowed, and a very high ground ball rate (3.39 GO/AO).
He currently has a 14/1 K/BB in seven shutout innings of relief work in the Arizona Fall League.
I spoke with Jared by telephone on Sunday afternoon.
John: "What is the biggest difference between pitching for Vanderbilt and pitching in pro ball?"
Jared: "The off-field environment is a lot different. Not every place you play in the minors is super nice or glamorous. In college we stayed in nice hotels and the travel was fun, but in the minors it is different. They call it the minor league grind. The travel is not as fun, the long bus rides, that’s the toughest part. The actual game on the field is pretty much the same."
John: "Do you think that pitching at Vanderbilt prepared you well for pro ball?"
Jared: "Even though the travel was different, Vanderbilt did a great job teaching me how to handle working around a schedule and making your body available to play every day. Your body is the most important thing to take care of, how to eat right, get your daily exercises in, so that you are ready to compete. This is a performance-based industry and you can’t perform if you’re not ready physically and mentally. Vanderbilt taught me that."
John: "You were a reliever your first two years in college, then moved to starting as a junior. You started in your first year in pro ball then moved back to the pen this year and had great success. Is there a big mental or emotional difference between starting and relieving?"
Jared: "As a starter you usually know what day you’re going to pitch as long as you’re healthy. In the bullpen you have to be prepared every day. You have to be ready to go every day. That’s tough for some guys physically and mentally but others are adaptable. Fortunately I was able to adapt to the role. It really is a big difference from starting, you have to stay focused constantly."
John: "You were much more dominant as a reliever. Do you enjoy the role?"
Jared: "I felt really good coming into camp this year. I had tweaked some things in the off-season and felt I would have good success as a starter. They told me I was going to the pen and they said some guys pout and waste a year when they change roles but that some guys blossom. I decided to blossom."
John: "Can you give us a breakdown on what you throw?"
Jared: "I have a fastball at 90 to 94, touching 95."
John: "Two-seam or four-seam?"
Jared: "Four-seam. I threw harder this year out of the pen. I also have a cutter at 85 to 89 and a curveball somewhere in the upper 70s . I use the curve like a change of pace when it looks like a hitter is geared up for the fastball or cutter."
John: "There was a noticeable uptick in your strikeout rate after moving to the bullpen and your ground ball rate also doubled."
Jared: "Being a taller guy helps me with the grounders, so does the cutter. Hitters have a hard time lifting my pitches."
John: "Is it hard to balance professional baseball and having a personal life?
Jared: "One of the things I learned at Vandy is that you have to have hobbies away from the game. Baseball is about failure and you have to learn how to deal with that, and part of that is being able to clear your mind and not carry failures around. I like to wake up early, check out a coffee shop, read a book, call friends, keep my mind off baseball early in the day. Because when the afternoon comes and you get to the park, you have to focus on your game and your teammates and winning. Vanderbilt taught me how to prioritize, to prevent the game from swallowing me up when I’m not on the field or in the clubhouse. I try to have fun on the field. I love being around my teammates and seeing other guys have success is a big part of the profession. You have to perform but you can’t let it eat you up."