Lynchburg pitcher Jarrett Miller made one small mechanical adjustment that has paid off in a big way this season.
Miller struggled to a 2-6 start before pitching coach Derrick Lewis talked with him about dropping his arm slot a bit. The 24-year-old right-hander incorporated the change in June and noticed immediate results, winning six of his next eight decisions to even his record at 8-8.
He's been one of the Carolina League's most consistent starters the past two months since making that subtle change. Miller has had quality starts in 10 of his last 13 outings and ranks third in the circuit in strikeouts this season (117 in 138 1/3 innings), while his eight victories are tied for fourth.
Miller pitched with the Hillcats last year, going 9-8 with a 3.73 ERA. He made 25 starts and pitched in 30 games but didn't begin as well this year.
"I would be missing early in the count," Miller said. "I found myself in 2-0, 3-1 situations too many times. I was leaving balls up too much."
And the other teams were hitting them too often. Miller won just once in his first eight starts, and Lewis talked with him in early June about the possible change.
"Just a lot of it was the command in the zone wasn't as sharp," Lewis said. "He had gotten too much over the top. You've got to throw quality strikes."
Lewis worked with Miller on finding the right arm slot, and the right-hander said everything started to click in one bullpen session. Miller said his pitches were sharper -- especially the curveball -- and he noticed much better movement all around. Most importantly, he was able to keep his pitches down. If he missed, he missed low.
The change involved having Miller separate his hands over the rubber and keep his elbow up. That gives the pitch a more downhill plane, which is what he and Lewis wanted.
"To me, it felt like a major change, [but] it's a very slight change that made a huge change in my delivery and what the ball does going to the plate," Miller said. "It allowed me to get to my release point more consistently. It's like night and day."
Miller, a 21st-round pick by Atlanta in the 2011 Draft, now has confidence in any pitch, regardless of the count or situation. He said that even if he falls behind 2-0, he feels he's able to throw a pitch down and away for a strike.
Lewis also gave Miller credit for making the change and following through with it, something not every pitcher can handle.
"Sometimes when you make adjustments, you've got to make it and stick with it," Lewis said. "That's something he was able to do and became more comfortable with. He's done a good job."
Big hits: Salem banged out 21 hits in a 17-9 rout of Myrtle Beach on Saturday. The Red Sox used a balanced attack as each member of the starting lineup picked up at least one hit and seven players finished with two or more. Manuel Margot went 3-for-5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs.
Just enough: Nick Williams hit a solo homer in the second inning to give Myrtle Beach a 1-0 victory over Carolina last Thursday. The Pelicans finished with just two hits in the game, and Williams came through at the right time. It was the 20-year-old's final game with the Pelicans before being promoted to Double-A Frisco.
Standings: Potomac is in the driver's seat to win both halves of the season in the Northern Division, holding a four-game lead through Tuesday's action. Myrtle Beach is trying to do the same in the Southern, but the Pelicans will have a tougher time with just a one-game edge over Salem.