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dyar miller weighs in

given last night's result, this seems like an opportune time to hear from memphis pitching coach dyar miller. he has been a friend of this blog since very early on; spoke to me several times last season, and was kind enough to check in with me yesterday for an early-season update on anthony reyes.

here's a short bio on miller that i originally posted here last june, introducing my first miller interview:

memphis redbird pitching coach dyar miller knows the minor leagues only too well. he spent seven years there before debuting with the baltimore orioles in 1975 as a 29-year-old rookie. miller's numbers in the minors were always great, but so was baltimore's pitching staff; its minor-league pitching staffs, too. so after posting a 12-10 record with a 3.23 era in his first year at double A (1970), the orioles rewarded him with . . . . another year at double A. and then another. he was 27 before a slot finally opened up for him at triple A in 1973); he had a great season (2.75 era, 6.6 hits per 9), but returned the next year, putting up nearly identical numbers (2.70, 6.8 hits per 9).

when he finally did reach the majors in 1975, he joined a baltimore pitching staff full to bursting with very successful major-leaguers. his teammates that season included jim palmer (268 career wins), doyle alexander (194), mike torrez (185), mike cuellar (185), mike flanagan (167), and ross grimsley (124). he led that team in saves with 8, despite arriving at midseason; he pitched another six years in the bigs, retiring with a career 3.23 era (era+ of 113).

in 1986, a few years after he retired, miller spent a year as the pitching coach at louisville, then the cards' triple A affiliate. two of the guys on his staff there, joe magrane and greg mathews, played crucial roles on stl's 1987 pennant winner -- the former led the staff in era, the latter in wins and games started. he moved on to work in the white sox and indians organizations, then returned to the cardinal system in 2002; in his four-plus years at memphis he has worked with danny haren, kiko calero, al reyes, randy flores, brad thompson, adam wainwright, and anthony reyes. oh, and a catcher named molina . . .

i called coach miller the other day to get his first impressions of anthony reyes. when he called back yesterday i didn't have a tape recorder handy, so i just took notes -- but only wrote down his answers, not my questions. so here are miller's statements on reyes and select other members of the 2006 memphis staff:

anthony reyes: "It's kind of a misconception, two-seam versus four-seam. It's not how you hold the ball; it's your arm positioning. If you lead with your elbow, I don't care if you grip two seams, four seams, or eight seams -- your ball's not gonna sink. He needs to get his elbow up on top, get his fingers over the ball, and throw in a downward plane. When Reyes does that, sometimes his four-seamer sinks.

"He did throw some two-seam last year, and he's been working with it some this year. I don't think he trusts it yet. I don't think he'll throw it when he's in a jam or when he's having trouble locating. But it's not how you hold the ball. He's just got to get his elbow up and get his fingers on top consistently. He has a tendency to throw pies. You ever throw a pie at somebody's face -- with your forearm up above your elbow? You push the thing. When you're throwing pies, it's pretty hard to throw a sinker.

"There are pitchers who can succeed throwing high fastballs. Darryl Kile did it -- he'd throw his fastball up and then drop that curveball on 'em. So there are examples, but in my experience they're few and far between.

"Reyes has been pretty decent at keeping the ball down so far. I think he's had more grounders than fly balls every start. His changeup is real good for him, real sharp.

"His attitude is good; he's solid. He's gonna work hard no matter where he is. I told him I have two goals for him this year: one, keep the ball down, and two, pitch every fifth day. Whether it's in the big leagues or down here -- every fifth day, all season. Just to show that he can do it."

brad voyles: "He might be the most polished pitcher I have. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he knows how to pitch, knows how to hold runners on. He throws a fastball, a little cutter, and a curve, and he can get that curve over for a strike any time. He has a tendency to pitch backwards -- throw the curve early in the count, then come back with the fastball. I don't always like that approach, but when you can get the pitch over it works. His control has been pretty darn good. A lot of it comes from maturity. He told me the other day, `Man, I wish I knew how to pitch the way I do now about seven or eight years ago.'

"Voyles is starting for us because we just don't have that many guys on our staff who can start. We had to hold him back to our number 5 because he had a little knee trouble; he needed the extra time to get ready. He's somebody who could succeed in the big leagues in the right situation."

brian falkenbourg: "If somebody slips up for the Cardinals, he might be the first guy who gets called. He's throwing it pretty well; he's got good stuff. He got a sinker up for us the other night and somebody hit it out, cost us a ballgame, but he's throwing real well. He could help the bullpen up there."

tyler johnson and carmen cali: "Johnson's arm got a little tender, so we've had to hold him out; he threw on the side the other day and looked real good. We're working on some mechanical things with him; he's not throwing the ball the same way he did last year. But he's got a good arm. My other left-hander, Carmen Cali, has pitched in some tough luck. He's got three losses, but a couple of them were because of errors behind him, misplays in the field. The ball's coming out of his hand very well and crossing the plate well; he's throwing a lot of strikes. I told both of them they have a real opportunity to pitch in the big leagues this year, because if anything happens on the St. Louis staff they've got a real good chance to go up there."

randy leek: "Here's a guy who could help a big-league club right now, if somebody'd give him the chance. He doesn't throw hard -- 86 is about his fastest pitch -- but he just knows how to pitch. He reminds you of Jamie Moyer -- hits his spots, keeps the ball down. A lot of people aren't going to like him because of his velocity, but he could be a #5 starter for a lot of major-league teams. He would keep you in the game."

adam wainwright: "I think a lot of his success so far is just due to maturity. He believes he can pitch in the big leagues. I'm not surprised; he had a real good year for us last season, pitched every fifth day. He hit a wall in July or so, but he pushed his way through it and finished up strong. Maybe his future is as a starter, but he's getting good experience now. I hope he keeps doing well."