The D-backs announced a series of roster moves Monday, activating right-hander Shelby Miller from the 60-day disabled list, placing fellow righty Clay Buchholz on the 10-day disabled list due to a strained left oblique muscle and releasing right-hander Stefan Crichton, who’d been on the minor league disabled list due to a shoulder injury.
For Miller, this will mark his return from a 14-month absence due to Tommy John surgery. He ramped up for his return with four minor league rehab starts between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, working to a combined 4.66 ERA with a much more impressive 28-to-6 K/BB ratio.
While Miller’s first season with the D-backs following the infamous Ender Inciarte/Dansby Swanson trade was an unequivocal disappointment, the righty was displaying some signs of a rebound last season at the time of his injury. Miller only made four starts last season and pitched just 22 innings, but he notched a solid 4.09 ERA with 20 strikeouts against 11 unintentional walks. More heartening, perhaps, was the fact that the lost life on his fastball had been rediscovered; after averaging a career-low 93 mph on his heater in 2016, he averaged 94.9 mph in 2017 prior to undergoing surgery.
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Miller’s return could prove to be critical for a D-backs rotation that has lost Taijuan Walker for the season and is currently without left-hander Robbie Ray (who, like Buchholz, is dealing with an oblique injury). Ray is on a minor league rehab assignment right now, and a starting five that includes him, Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley and a healthy Miller could prove formidable if Miller is closer to the pitcher who notched a 3.57 FIP in 2017 than he is to his 2016 form (6.15 ERA, 4.87 FIP).
Buccholz’s injury is hardly insignificant itself. After the Royals decided not to give him a look in the Majors earlier this year, he signed a minor league pact with the D-backs and has been something of a savior to their injury-plagued staff. Through seven starts and a total of 38 2/3 innings, Buchholz has compiled an outstanding 2.56 ERA with a 31-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 40.7 percent ground-ball rate.
As for Crichton, the D-backs acquired him back on April 2, sending a player to be named later or cash to the Orioles. He ultimately never pitched in the Majors for the D-backs, and he was hit exceptionally hard in Triple-A before landing on the disabled list. In 16 innings there, Crichton logged a disastrous 10.13 RA with 17 strikeouts against eight unintentional walks and four home runs. That said, the 26-year-old was nothing short of excellent in Triple-A last year. In 47 2/3 there last season, a healthier Crichton notched a tidy 3.02 ERA with 9.4 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.