Drop the conspiracy theories: Cards still have big plans for Shelby Miller

ST. LOUIS — Bury the conspiracy theories. Forget about an innings cap. There was no mysterious injury.

Shelby Miller pitched a total of one inning in the Cardinals’ 17 postseason games because the Cardinals never needed a long reliever.

Believe it or not. After hearing from manager Mike Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak Monday, there’s little reason to believe the club was hiding anything about its handling of Miller.

The 22-year-old right-hander led all rookies with 15 wins during the regular season but was passed over in the postseason rotation by Michael Wacha. Once Miller wasn’t in the rotation, his opportunities to pitch depended on how Matheny believed his starters were faring.

“There were quite a few times when we were one hit away one way or the other of needing somebody to go long,” Matheny said. “(Shelby) was right there.”

Matheny said he talked with Miller just about every day, often more than once, to make sure he understood the situation.

“I never did know when we would need him and how that was going to look, and that was the honest truth,” Matheny said. “The message every day was I need you ready early. … He knew and I know he believed that.”

Added general manager John Mozeliak: “Shelby was that insurance blanket (on the roster). Oddly, though, he was on there for the hope you would never use him. You would hope your starters would go deep enough and he wouldn’t get that opportunity.”

Miller’s postseason role has no bearing on the club’s plans for him in 2014, Mozeliak said.

“I think he’ll be a key member of our rotation,” Mozeliak said. “It’s safe to say he’ll be close to the 200-inning mark if all goes well for him.”

Cardinals starters failed to pitch at least five innings only twice during the playoffs, in their second game of the Division Series and the Game 6 loss in the World Series. With the Cardinals down 6-1, Matheny had Miller warm up in the eighth inning of the final game.

“If things got out of hand, I did want to get him in the game,” said Matheny, who did not say what he meant by “out of hand.”

“I wanted to get everybody into (a World Series game). If things did start going in a bad direction, I wanted to make sure he had plenty of time to be ready to go in the game and pitch.”

As for another little-used reliever who took up a roster spot, Mozeliak admitted the decision to include Edward Mujica was based in part on his regular-season contributions. Mujica, who lost his closer’s job in September, ended up appearing in only two games in October.

“There is a level of gratitude for what you did for the organization,” Mozeliak said. “You look at Chief’s contributions to this club this year and it would have been very difficult to keep him off. It would have been a tough message to our club.”

You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.