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Cardinals’ forgotten man Shelby Miller trying stay ready

Oct 21, 2013, 11:19 AM EDT

Colorado Rockies v St. Louis Cardinals Getty Images

Despite an excellent rookie season in which he won 15 games with a 3.06 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 173 innings Shelby Miller has been a forgotten man for the Cardinals in the playoffs, as St. Louis shifted him to the bullpen in favor of Joe Kelly/Lance Lynn and has used him just once as a reliever.

Miller’s role seems unlikely to change in the World Series, but the 22-year-old right-hander is trying to stay ready just in case he’s needed for something beyond mop-up work against the Red Sox.

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Miller threw two innings in a simulated game at Busch Stadium yesterday, and afterward manager Mike Matheny said:

The idea for Shelby and the conversation with Shelby from day one is that he could have an expanded role at any point. He needs to stay sharp. … We need Shelby to stay sharp in his mind, because at any point, we might need him to come and fill a number of different roles. He looked good today, and we were excited to see that.

It’s a testament to the Cardinals’ pitching depth that an arm as good and successful as Miller’s hasn’t even been needed in the playoffs, but it’ll be interesting to see how he looks if Matheny is forced into using him in a key spot at some point. Miller’s last start was September 25.

  1. pwshrugged - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    I remain completely and utterly flabbergasted at the success of the St. Louis Cardinals at developing and bringing up pitching prospects. Their wealth of talented young arms is simply incredible. That they can forego using Miller, who’s probably a little burned out anyway, in the playoffs – a legit RotY candidate, remember – and not skip a beat because of other guys like Wacha and Kelly is just amazing.

  2. thomas655 - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Miller should be in the rotation, and send Lynn to the bullpen. I believe most Cards fans feel Shelby should be starting, or at least be more of a consideration for bullpen needs.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:36 AM

      I’m thinking the Cardinals are really concerned about tumbling K-rate in September. It went from 9.6 from April-August to less than half that the final month of the season. I don’t disagree with you, but his not pitching does seem to be based on seem to be based on something pretty solid.

      • stex52 - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        I followed Miller pretty closely this season because I got him for a bargain on my Fantasy team. He noticeably tired in August and they were concerned about inning limits and his future. The K-rate reinforces that view.

        I’m surprised they haven’t used hi more in relief, but I think the caution with his status is well placed. He easily has the stuff to be a #2/#1 pitcher if he is brought along well early in his career.

      • pwshrugged - Oct 21, 2013 at 1:30 PM

        Miller’s probably a better pitcher than Lynn, but the Cardinals probably remember what happened to Lynn last year, too, when he wore out during the second half of the season. Besides, Miller was showing pretty obvious signs of fatigue towards the end of the season as he got past his previous innings high. I’m actually surprised they didn’t end up shutting him down in mid-September.

    • tva314 - Oct 21, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      You forgot why Miller wound up in the bullben in the NLCS: an 0-3 record against LA during the regular season. I haven’t been all that impressed with Lynn, myself, and I agree that Shelby should have been used more out of the bullpen than he was. So we’ll see what happens over the next week or so.

  3. spudchukar - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    While not officially on a pitch count, the Cards are concerned with the number of innings the rookie has been asked to pitch. Plus, down the stretch he wasn’t as sharp. His ball straightened out a bit, and he is susceptible to the HR.

    All things considered, he was the most expendable of the 5 starters to be moved to the pen. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cards changed things up if they need to. He has gotten some much needed rest, would be asked to pitch at home, where he has performed much better, and is a valuable option.

    One option the Cards have is to go to a 5 man rotation in the WS, particularly if they maintain a lead. Having Wainwright and Wacha ready to go with an extra days rest for Games #6 and #7 is a scenario many Cards’ fans would relish.

  4. numbr4stuna - Oct 21, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    It’s important to keep in mind the full details of the situation. Miller was the 5th starter for the Cards from day 1 of the season. He logged 173 innings this year over 31 starts. Kelly logged just 15 starts w/ 124 innings (majority of those out of the pen). Wacha wasn’t brought up till the middle of the season and has just 9 starts with 64 innings. Moral of the story is Miller went through a full season and is nearing the rookie wall. The other two rookies are in midseason form with regards to their arm strength. Lynn is in over Miller because he is a veteran that has pitched multiple full seasons. I think it’s a wise decision to keep Miller back. You don’t want to compromise his physical ability by overworking him, and you don’t want to damage him mentally should he not have his best stuff and get walloped.

  5. emdash01 - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    I wonder if he hasn’t actually been mostly shut down because he’s hit his innings limit, and the Cardinals just don’t want to say so because they’re hoping to avoid a media circus. That would be kinda funny.

    • paperlions - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      Nope. The decision was made based on a combination of recent performance and health/fatigue. Miller had a lot of high pitch counts this year, so that innings total isn’t indicative of his actual work load.

      • emdash01 - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        It’s just odd that, in 11 games so far in the postseason, he’s pitched 1 inning. Not even an inning of relief in their blowout of the Dodgers. If he’s just been moved to the bullpen, shouldn’t he have appeared in the NLCS at some point?

      • paperlions - Oct 21, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        With all of the off days the bullpen in the NLCS was already to big. I would guess that he was there as an emergency long-man in case of extra inning games or a starter that gets rocked. He wasn’t needed game 6. After what happened last year, I doubt Matheny was going to risk anything even with a 9-0 lead, so he used the guys that are fresh and pitching well.

        Even before the end of the season they were talking about Miller wearing down and it affecting his ability to repeat his delivery. If they had no plan to use him whatsoever, he wouldn’t be on the roster.

  6. gibbyfan - Oct 21, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    I had been wondering about Shelby but all of you guys above make a lot of sense………great comments/insight

  7. jaiello4 - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:30 PM

    There is a rumor that someone high up in the Cardinals organization has said there is a trade being worked out between Colorado and St.Louis. Shelby Miller and a young prospect for Tulo. It makes sense. Were not pitching Shelby for a reason and a sore arm/fatigue is a stupid reason

    • stex52 - Oct 22, 2013 at 12:50 PM

      You think the Rockies would go for that deal? I wouldn’t.

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