Milone’s wicked curveball leads to sterling season debut

Syracuse Chiefs left-handed starter Tom Milone had a very impressive 2011 debut with seven innings of shutout ball in a 2-0 win over Lehigh Valley on Sunday. Milone allowed just five singles with no walks and four strikeouts.

Milone says he was able to throw strikes early on, but the biggest thing is his mistake pitches weren’t over the upper half of the plate.

“I am very happy with the way it turned out (Sunday),” Milone said. “The best thing I took out of that (start) was I wasn’t as spot-on as some of my other games, but my misses were where they wouldn’t hurt me. They were kind of off the plate or low, but they weren’t over the plate and up where they can smash them. I think that is why I was successful.

“Some of the pitches were pretty good pitches, but they were just hit hard. I think three of the five singles were hit well. I went a little deeper in the counts, so I was forced to throw strikes. When they know you have to throw strikes, they are going to hit it on the screws. I think that was the majority of those hits, (was) me getting deeper into the count and them knowing I had to throw a strike.”

Milone went seven strong innings and was pleasantly surprised that the coaching staff let him continue through the sixth and seventh frames.

“I really didn’t think that would have happened even if I was at the pitch count that I was,” Milone said. “I thought maybe (the) first game they would kind of ease me in there. I hadn’t really sat down and gotten back up seven times before. I thought they would cut me off after six innings. It was kind of nice to get that.”

Milone said the big key for him each year is that he actually feels like he pitches better once the season gets rolling and the games count.

“I don’t know what it is about spring training, but I feel more comfortable once the season starts,” Milone said. “I think it might be the atmosphere with the fans in the stands. It feels more like a game to me than spring training does. Once I get into the season, it comes quick for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better Triple-A debut.”

Josh Wilkie and Cole Kimball finished off the game with scoreless eighth and ninth innings of work. Milone says he thinks the bullpen can do that all season as well.

“Any of the guys that come after me I have confidence in,” Milone said. “When I have runners on the bases and I come out of the inning, I can count on anybody to get me out of a jam.”

Milone says his curve was his best pitch, but that can change from start to start. That is one of the reasons Syracuse Chiefs play-by-play man Jason Benetti calls him the “crafty lefty.”

“I really relied on my curve ball Sunday more than my changeup,” Milone said. “I got swings and misses with my changeup. On of the strikeouts was on a changeup. I felt like if I was trying to throw (the curveball) for a strike it was a strike. As for my fastball, I was able to locate in and out at times. I was able to keep my changeup low, but I didn’t have to use it as much.”

Milone expects to pitch again on Friday.

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