Justin Miller’s time in the Washington Nationals’ bullpen began with 10 2⁄3 scoreless innings in which he struck out 21 without issuing a walk, after he’d tossed 13 2⁄3 scoreless, walking three and striking out 23, at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nats’ system to start the season.
It was up and down after that initial, dominant stretch. Miller finished the 2018 campaign with a 3.61 ERA, 4.44 FIP, 17 walks (2.92 BB/9), 60 Ks (10.32 K/9), and a .214/.285/.420 line against in 52 1⁄3 IP, hanging around in the big leagues and working in a variety of roles as part of the Nationals’ bullpen.
How did he feel coming out of his big season and coming off a heavy workload?
“I felt pretty good,” Miller told reporters when he spoke at Winterfest in early December.
“Ended the season on a strong note,” Miller added, “... and I felt pretty good, and then going into the offseason, just try to rest because I did get a lot of appearances, but arm feels fresh and body feels good now.”
His takeaway from his return to the majors for the first time since he was in Colorado in 2016?
“Just staying consistent,” he said, “... trying to stay level-headed, not getting too high on the high and not getting too low on the lows, just trying to stay even-keel.”
Not worrying about finding a new job with a new team in a new city this winter is a bonus too.
“Yeah, there’s certainty,” Miller acknowledged.
“Last year, when I was in the offseason, I wasn’t signed with anybody, so I’ve got some certainty this year and know who I’m going to be with and this time I won’t have to go to minor league camp.”
While he did a little bit of everything last season, working in long/middle relief, working the late innings, and even getting a few save opportunities, Miller said he was not particularly concerned with what role he’ll be asked to fill in 2019.
“Just as long as it’s a role in the big leagues, that’s fine with me,” he joked.
After the successful run in the Nationals’ bullpen, Miller said he was sticking with the same workout routine as he prepares for the upcoming season.
As far as any improvements he’s looking to make going forward?
“Try not to give up as many home runs, I guess?” MIller said after giving up 10 total in 2018. “That was kind of a shocker for me. I usually don’t give up home runs and I gave up what? Ten last year? So try to cut that down.”
Joining Miller and the rest of the returning Nationals’ relievers in the bullpen will be right-handers Trevor Rosenthal, who signed as a free agent this winter, and Kyle Barraclough, who was acquired in a deal with the Miami Marlins.
Miller was excited about the additions, though he said he didn’t know either pitcher well personally.
“It’s good,” Miller said. “Two big arms, so it’s going to help us out. You lose [Ryan] Madson, that’s a big arm. You lose Kelvin [Herrera] that’s a big arm, now we’ve got two more flame throwers, so that’s pretty good.”