ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Wade Miller, working his way back to the Cubs rotation after being sidelined for a month by back spasms, threw 89 pitches, 54 for strikes, in a six-inning stint against the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A Astros affiliate owned by Nolan Ryan. He will join the team in San Diego on Tuesday and thinks he's once again ready for big-league action.
"I feel good," Miller said. "I definitely could have gone deeper into the game and I think my command was where I wanted it to be in the final few innings. I feel like I'm ready to contribute so now it's just a matter of how and when the club wants to use me."
Miller went on the disabled list April 23 after making three starts for the Cubs. He made a Double-A rehab start last Tuesday, pitching into the sixth inning in a 6-4 win by the Tennessee Smokies. He surrendered three runs and seven hits while striking out one and walking two.
Miller made two rehab starts with the I-Cubs last year, going 1-0 with a 6.55 ERA, while recovering from a right shoulder arthroscopy. This time, facing a lineup that included five players with big-league experience, Miller got off to a rough start, laboring through 30 pitches in the first inning.
Throwing eight consecutive fastballs, he walked leadoff hitter Chris Burke on a 3-2 count before giving up a second-pitch RBI double. Another double brought home a second run before Miller settled in and retired the side. Miller gave up another double in the second inning with Burke coming around to score.
Miller explained the early reliance on his fastball as purely a matter of tactics. "Since I was expecting to go deep into the game I wanted to try and get through the lineup the first time without showcasing all my pitches," he said. "I felt comfortable throwing my breaking pitches so it wasn't anything physical."
Miller picked up momentum as the game progressed, throwing a scoreless third inning and then setting Round Rock down in order on six pitches in the fourth.
"It took a couple of innings for me to actually get loose and figure out what I wanted to do, but after that everything seemed to go pretty well," he said. "I felt like I could have kept going, and building up stamina has been part of this whole rehab process."
Miller's final line, which included four earned runs on six hits and three walks balanced by three strikeouts, wasn't overwhelming, but his mechanics were solid and he seemed to be upgrading his game as the innings passed. His fastest pitch of the night, an 88-mph fastball, came in his final inning of work, a positive indication of both his increased stamina and his finding his comfort zone on the mound.
"I had a few command problems early, but other than that it felt like a normal start," Miller said. "You can't ever really compare pitching at this level to pitching in the big leagues, but I didn't do anything different here than I would do there. And I felt just like I should after an outing like this so I'm as ready as I can get."
Michael Point is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.