Miller had an up and down debut with Eugene but put himself on the prospect map with a good year in Fort Wayne in 2014 when he had 26 extra-base hits for the TinCaps. Last season in Lake Elsinore he hit .261/.286/.390 but hit .305/.353/.578 for the Canberra Calvary in winter ball, splitting time between catching and DH.
This season with the Missions, Miller has struggled to get consistent playing time with the organization electing to give Rocky Gale everyday playing time in Double-A with Austin Hedges in Triple-A. However, when Hedges is eventually promoted look for Miller to see more time with Hedges going back to El Paso.
We caught up with Ryan in late May to discuss how his off-season went and how some who has the self-proclaimed "ugliest swing" in the organization is progressing.
How was playing in Australia?
Ryan Miller: It was great and kind of felt a little bit like the big leagues. All travel was by plane and I got to play for Michael Collins again [Collins was Miller’s manager in Lake Elsinore and Fort Wayne] and with River Stevens, who came out after his wedding.
I also got to work with Jack Murphy, who is a catcher in the Dodger’s organization, who helped me out a lot and really was kind of like a mentor to me. We had a bunch of guys who just wanted to play baseball and win, which is what we did. So I had a great time.
To make sure everyone understands, these are games not just exhibitions.
Ryan Miller: Oh yeah, the Australians take this stuff pretty seriously. It’s really interesting because there are all levels of players there - some guys with big league time - along with Americans, Australians and players from Latin America. Just like here.
It’s very competitive and each town is really into it. The fans of our team, the Canberra Calvery, had our backs through everything so it was great.
Then you go on the road and get heckled.
Ryan Miller: [laughs] There are always a couple of guys that can tear you apart on the on-deck circle.
How did your body hold up? You caught a full year at Lake Elsinore and some at San Antonio last year.
Ryan Miller: In Australia we only played four games a week and I would catch two and was the DH for the other two. Collins took care of me in that way so it it wasn’t that much of a physical toll on my body. I got better and was given a chance to refuel my body without the back-to-back games.
In the past you have always given yourself a hard time by saying that you had the “ugliest swing” in the organization.
When I was in Lake Elsinore last year you were taking batting practice with the swing that you wanted to have, going into games with your old swing and in Spring Training you told me that you had scrapped your “new” swing.
So where are you at now?
Ryan Miller: Right now I worked a lot with Luis Ortiz [the Padres’ Field and Hitting Coordinator] and Johnny Washington, our hitting instructor here. Wash kind of grabbed me and has me on a whole new swing. I’m much less rotational and can hit the ball the other way. My timing and balance are still a work in progress, but I can drive the pitches that I couldn’t before.
How has it been working in games?
Ryan Miller: After the first week I started to revert back to what I used to do and Wash called me out on it. He said that if I wanted to go back, I could or you have to trust the process - it’s not an overnight - to want to get better.
I do feel more comfortable now, it’s coming.
How has your progress been defensively? There is always so much to work on.
Ryan Miller: I went there and worked a lot on receiving and the mental part of the position. Recognizing batter’s swings, what to call and in what count. That is where Jack Murphy really helped me out a lot.
Murphy picked me up with my receiving, particularly on how to get to the low pitch.
You have to help us out there. What does that mean?
Ryan Miller: What I was doing in my pre-pitch is that I would set-up below my knee. I would relax up so if the ball was below me I would drop my mitt downward so a borderline strike wasn’t getting called. Now when I relax, its downward so I’m coming up to get the ball and the strike gets called.
The organization has a pair of really talented defensive catchers in Austin Hedges and Rocky Gale. How has working with them helped you?
Ryan Miller: I haven’t worked with Hedges that much, but Rocky I’ve been around. With Rocky you couldn’t tell if he was hurt or tired. I would do early work with him - particularly with flexibility and throwing.
In Eugene I thought I had a plus arm and feel that I’ve kind of lost some of it. Rocky helped me to understand that I need to drive off of my back foot more and it’s really helped me out.
You spend so much time with pitchers, do you find yourself trying to think with the opposing pitcher during your own at-bat?
Ryan Miller: I think that can be one of the worst things you do in an at-bat, when you start to talk to yourself and guess - instead of react.
I used to pitch in high school and catch here, so if I start doing that it can really screw me up.