Entering the spring, Tommy Milone appeared to have no shot at making the Opening Day roster. However, the 31-year-old has pitched his way into the conversation.
Appearing in four games this spring, Milone has struck out seven batters in eight scoreless innings. A large part of his success has come from his ability to limit baserunners; he has only allowed three hits and a walk.
In today’s game, Milone is part of a nearly-extinct species. Most pitchers deploy fastballs in the upper-nineties, but Milone’s fastball may touch 90 on a good day. Instead of velocity, Milone relies on command and movement to succeed.
Milone’s strong spring has come as a pleasant surprise, especially considering his dreadful 2017 campaign. While it is not known what exactly enabled him to return to form, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist has likely played a significant role.
Lilliquist preaches the importance of inducing ground balls and weak contact, which is what Milone relies on. Perhaps getting the opportunity to work with Lilliquist has allowed Milone to return to form.
While Milone is by no means a lock to make the Opening Day roster, he has come a long way since reporting to camp in mid-February. If he does not begin the year with the Nats, he has made a strong case to pitch in the majors elsewhere.