CLEARWATER, Fla. - Hoby Milner was a middling starter-turned-reliever at the end of the 2015 season who was lucky to hit 90 mph. The lefthander needed a change and the Phillies suggested that he lower his arm slot and pitch with a sidearm delivery. Milner did, and success followed.
Milner returned to the Phillies on Sunday after spending six weeks with the Cleveland Indians, who selected Milner in the Rule 5 draft but were unable to keep the lefthander on their 25-man roster. He will likely start the season at triple A, but fans can expect to see Milner reach the big leagues in 2017.
"I feel like I'm more on the map now," Milner said. "I'm glad I was given the opportunity to come to big-league spring training over here. I assumed when I was sent back to the Phillies that I would go straight back to minor-league camp, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to come out here and for the staff to get to see me pitch because I'm a little different pitcher than I was last year. Just constantly evolving and I feel like I got better when I was there with the Indians."
Milner had a 2.72 ERA last season in 59 2/3 innings at double-A Reading. He struck out 68 and walked just 15 in 47 games. He ended the season in triple A. The lefthander compensated for his lack of velocity with deception on his pitches created by his funky, sidearm delivery.
"You'll see when I throw it doesn't look pretty," Milner said. "But it works."
Joely Rodriguez might be the lone lefthander to make the Phillies bullpen. The team does not have a lot of lefthanded pitching depth, which should allow Milner to get to the majors quickly if he repeats last season's success.
He likely never had a chance to make the Indians, who have two of baseball's best lefthanded relievers in Andrew Miller and Boone Logan. But his time there, Milner said, gave him confidence that the Phillies hope he can use this season.