Shelby Miller's encouraging start is good news for the Diamondbacks

Still just 26 years old, Shelby Miller has already experienced more than his fair share of ups and down as a major leaguer. In less than five full seasons, he’s gone from winning Rookie of the Year in 2013, to being demoted to the minor leagues midway through the 2016 season. In between he’s earned an All-Star selection and lost 17 games in a season, both of which actually happened in the same season.

Obviously counting stats don’t often tell the complete story, but in this instance they help paint the picture of a career that’s hit every dot on the map.

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Of course, what’s freshest in our minds is Miller’s dismal performance in 2016. Miller made a lousy impression on D-Backs’ fans, posting a 6.15 ERA over 20 starts and just 101 innings. That’s how far his stock had fallen, but a new season has brought new hope for the former first-round pick, and so far anyway the results have been encouraging.

Now he’s looking to continue rebuilding his stock and his confidence, and he’ll have another chance to do just that on Sunday when the Diamondbacks host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Free MLB Game of the Day on Yahoo Sports. That game, which can be streamed on our MLB page, the Free Game of the Day tab or right here in this very post, will begin at 4:10 p.m. ET.

Shelby Miller is looking to make a better impression on Diamondbacks fans this season. (AP)

In all three starts so far this season, Miller has lasted at least five innings and allowed no more than three runs. While that may not sound noteworthy, one must consider Miller had zero such starts in April last season, and only seven for the entire season. Beyond that, Miller’s next win will give him three this season, which would match his season total for 2016.

It’s possible Miller already took the biggest step toward leaving last season’s misery behind in his last outing against the San Diego Padres. That came almost one year to the day from Miller’s bizarre outing in San Diego last season, which saw his mechanics become so out of whack that his knuckles scraped the ground on several pitches.

Miller tossed 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Arizona’s 11-2 victory against San Diego. Just as important, he sounded confident that he’s put everything back together.

“It’s great,” Miller said of his outing. “The biggest thing is just trying to go out there and compete, no matter what the circumstances are. Last year, I only won three games and the year before that only six. My biggest thing was trying to get back to winning, not only for myself but for the team.”

Everyone knows the Diamondbacks are going to hit. The question over the last three seasons is whether or not they have enough pitching to support it. The thought was bringing in Miller and Zack Greinke last season would help solved those issues, but they really only deepened. Now it’s time for both to deliver.

“He’s in a really good place,” Diamondbacks pitching coach Mike Butcher said following Miller’s most recent outing. “I know I keep saying the same thing, but he’s in a really good place mentally, physically, emotionally.”

Diamondbacks fans don’t want to hear it. They want to see it. Perhaps Sunday will provide the next glimmer of hope.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter!

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