Justin Miller excited to be back with Nationals for 2019

After pitching only in the minor leagues in 2017, right-hander Justin Miller made a return to the major leagues with the Nationals last season and did quite well.

In 51 games, Miller went 7-1 with a 3.61 ERA and two saves. In 52 1/3 innings, he struck out 60 batters and walked 17. In his three seasons with Detroit and Colorado, Miller combined for a total of five wins and one save over 88 1/3 frames.

On Sunday at Nats Winterfest, Miller said he was thankful for his season and do have an offseason where he knew he would be back with the Nats again.

“Yeah, there’s certainty,” Miller said. “Last year, when I was in the offseason, I wasn’t signed with anybody. I’ve got some certainty this year and whom I’m going to be with. This time I won’t have to go to minor league camp.”

Miller-Throw-Blue-Sidebar.jpgMiller started off 2018 well for the Nats, not allowing an earned run in his first eight appearances. But he did get knocked around a few times and then was able to pitch well at the end of the season.

When a reliever goes through hot and cold spells, how does he maintain confidence?

“Just try not to change anything,” Miller said. “Some of those pitches I threw, like to (Andrew) Knapp against the Phillies, I threw two good fastballs and that were up and he wound up hitting them out. I was throwing a lot of days in a row. That had a little bit to do with it. (The Braves Ronald) Acuña, I threw him one up and in (and) he hit one out.

“You just trying not to change anything because if I face those guys again throw the same pitches, I can get a strikeout. Just try not to change anything. Stick with what I’m good at and just keep attacking hitters.”

One concern that can crop up for relievers during a long season is overuse, which can occur when a manager loses confidence in another pitcher and decides to use the hot hand too much. A reliever trying to prove himself can sometimes pretend to not be tired or sore and accept every call to go into a game.

But Miller said he has a great relationship with his pitching coach, bullpen coach and manager Davey Martinez.

“Davey’s got an open door,” Miller said. “I learned from (Ryan) Madson and those guys if I’m down and I’m not feeling that well, go tell them because if I go out there and I’m not my best, it’s not going to help the team out.

“They always got an open door and they want us to have open line of communication, so if you’re not feeling your best, you need a day or something like that, then you can let them know and then the other guys can fill in for you.”

Miller said he was able to maintain his strength and durability thanks to the offseason program he had prior to last year. He won’t make any changes to this year’s preparation.

“No, just took the same workout act that I did the last offseason into this one,” Miller said. “I didn’t have to change anything. I felt pretty good. Ended the season on a strong note. Felt pretty good. 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.

“I think (my durability) had to do with the workout program, being with (personal trainer Eric Cressey) last offseason I think it really helped me. And doing his workouts throughout the season as well I think it kept me fresh.”

One thing Miller did point to that he will want to rectify this season is not allowing the longball. He gave up 10 homers in 2018, a career high. In his three previous seasons, he had allowed a grand total of 10.

“Try not to give up as many home runs, I guess,” Miller said. “That was kind of a shocker for me. I don’t usually give up home runs and I gave up, what, 10 last year? Try to cut that down.”

And would Miller prefer a defined role or inning to pitch in?

“Just as long as it’s a role in the big leagues, that’s fine with me,” Miller said.

And Miller likes playing in D.C. He joked about being able to walk around town without being recognized.

“I love it. Fans here are great,” Miller said. “People here are great. Me and the wife last night got some food and everybody was really nice. You can walk around this town and if I don’t have this jersey on, they don’t know who I am, so I’m fine. I can mingle with people and stuff like that and not have to sit there and talk about baseball or sign autographs or anything like that. It’s real nice.”

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