Miller, Kelly continue battle for fifth spot
MAR 15, 2013 5:41p ET
"If he gets the fifth spot, I'm not going to talk to him anymore," Miller quipped.
Jokes aside, the roommates find themselves as the two remaining competitors to be the fifth starter in the Cardinals' rotation.
The situation could be a difficult or even awkward one for some, with one of them opening the season in the rotation and the other either headed to the bullpen or possibly Triple-A Memphis.
"We've messed around a couple times, but no hatred towards anybody," Kelly said. "We're best friends. It is what it is. We're not trying to hide from each other or anything. We live together too. We converse with everything we do.
"Me and Shelby, we don't ask anything. We just go out there and pitch when we're supposed to pitch. We both pitched (Thursday) and lined up on the same day. I don't know (what happens) from there honestly."
Both had their final chance to impress the judges Thursday. The Cardinals plan to give the fifth starter the final three starts of the spring to build up his pitch count and get ready for the season, meaning a decision likely needs to be made before their next start.
Kelly started Thursday against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium and allowed three hits and one run in four solid innings, continuing what has been an impressive spring. He's allowed just five hits and two earned runs in eight innings over three starts.
Miller followed him in relief and allowed three earned runs in 2 2/3 innings, but two of the runs scored after he had been removed from the game.
"Joe came out and I thought that was probably the best he's been this spring," said manager Mike Matheny. "Shelby threw the ball pretty well as well. It was a good day."
Matheny refused to say what his pitching coach said a few days earlier, that the club needs to make a decision prior to the next time around in the rotation. The manager said they could give innings on back fields to give both guys work if not enough room remains in games.
"(Thursday) wasn't a drop dead, have-to-make-a-decision day," Matheny said. "We just took in more information and gave them another opportunity to go out there, and I thought they both did the most with it.
"We don't have columns of this guy gains a point here or there, it's just watching the whole body of work. We still have time to continue to watch and have them ready depending on how we line out our starters, but we have a significant amount of time ahead of us to build them up. Today was a nice step forward."
Both Kelly and Miller will serve as the best men in the other's weddings just a week apart come November. But now they're competing for a spot in the big league rotation with the loser possibly headed to the minor leagues.
Kelly made his big league debut on June 10 last summer, when Jaime Garcia suffered a shoulder injury. The young right-hander went 5-7 with a 3.53 ERA in 24 appearances.
A third-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2009, Kelly was even better in the playoffs, where he strung together seven consecutive scoreless outings and finishing with just two earned runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings.
Asked what it would mean if he was selected as the fifth starter, Kelly said, "It's a great compliment; that's what I came into spring training battling for and it doesn't stop there, but it would be pretty huge for anyone to hear that."
Kelly cautioned that whoever wins the fifth starter's spot can't relax because, "The guys who open Opening Day, the five guys are rarely ever the same at the end. There's always somebody looking to take somebody's job. Every time you go out there, you're competing. You've seen our farm system. We're number one. There's a guy trying to steal everyone's job."
Miller took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his first career start on the final day of the regular season and finished the regular season with a 1.32 ERA in six appearances with the Cardinals after being called up in September.
He's allowed six earned runs and ten hits in 7 2/3 innings this spring, a 7.04 ERA, but feels his numbers don't indicate how he's pitched.
"I feel like I've been throwing well," Miller said. "I definitely have been throwing better than probably what my numbers look like. I feel good and I felt like my fastball is definitely a lot better than it was last year but at the same time, Joe has been throwing just as well."
On the competition for the fifth spot, Miller said, "It's really not up to me. I feel like there's always room where I could have proved that I was more ready. There's always something and we're both working on things, but at the end of the day Mike's going to do what's best for the team and whatever happens, happens.
"We're obviously really good friends and played together for a really long time and hope the best for each other. We're not really doing any bets or anything like that, we're just hoping for the best or both of us."