ST. LOUIS – The Cardinals are not promoting top pitching prospect Shelby Miller just so he can sit on the bench and experience life in the big leagues for the first time in his career. They expect him to contribute to their playoff push.
The highly hyped Miller will officially be added to the roster Tuesday, barely three years after the Cardinals selected him out of high school in the first round of the 2009 draft. They are rewarding him for a strong second half at Triple-A, but also counting on him to bolster their pitching staff.
“It was really something where we feel he can help us right now,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “If you look back at how he’s pitched the last six, seven weeks, he’s really turned the corner and when you look at the composition of our club right now … we felt he would be a nice injection into that.”
The Cardinals will also add outfielder Adron Chambers and infielder Ryan Jackson to the roster on Tuesday after adding pitchers Sam Freeman and Victor Marte in recent days.
Miller went 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA in his first season at Triple-A but those numbers don’t begin to tell the story of his season. The hard-throwing Miller arrived in spring training underweight and struggled the first few months with his slimmer body composition.
But as he worked to regain his heavier weight as the season went on, the velocity began to return as well. And so did his dominating results. Miller went 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his final 10 starts of the season and had 66 strikeouts to just six walks in his last nine appearances.
“I think his command of his secondary pitches, use of his secondary pitches and when you look at more of the baseball cards stats, you see the number of strikeouts and the lack of walks just screams he’s around the zone,” Mozeliak said. “He’ll be a great compliment for our club as we move forward.
“We’re competing for a playoff spot so giving somebody experience is not the right strategy when you’re competing for a playoff spot. Are there ancillary benefits from this, sure, but that was not the reason we brought him up. … I think it’s a great compliment to Shelby.”
Miller was named the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Month for August after going 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA in six starts last month. He had a minor league high 53 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings. He was twice named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the week during August.
The hard-throwing righty struck out at least nine batters in three of his last five starts. He had nine strikeouts and allowed just one run on five hits in six strong innings to finish his Triple-A season Friday night.
Miller will initially be used as a long-relief option out of the bullpen but could move into the rotation should something unforeseen occur such as an injury to one of the current starters.
“I think he made a lot of strides late in the second half of the season in his game and even more so, he made some strides maturing as a player and a person,” said manager Mike Matheny. “He’s not many years out of high school. … This is a lot to handle up here and it really seemed like he turned the corner and the way he was going about it and obviously he had a very strong finish on the mound.
“We’re right in this thing and we have to have our best. If he’s one of our best right now then he should be here.”