Braves’ Miller enjoys All-Star experience, even if he didn’t take the field

The Braves' Shelby Miller (left) was among six NL pitchers that did not pitch during Monday's 6-3 loss.

David Kohl/David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — The first All-Star Game day of Shelby Miller’s career started in the back of a Chevy truck, sharing the spotlight — and the 4×4’s bed — with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and his family during the parade that finished on Joe Nuxhall Way.

The Braves pitcher’s day ended on the bullpen bench, watching as the National League fell 6-3 to the American League and MVP Mike Trout on Monday night.

Never taking the field, though, didn’t dampen his experience.

"It’s been awesome, obviously," Miller said. "You dream about these kinds of moments as a kid, to make it to the MLB and to be an All-Star and stuff like that is pretty special."

Miller wasn’t alone in going unused among the NL’s starting pitchers during the 86th Midsummer Classic, as he was joined by the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett and Cardinals’ Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha in watching from the seat in center field.

But with the AL leading 3-2 before it added two runs in the seventh and another in the eighth, NL manager Bruce Bochy’s plan was to play it safe and hold back a number of pitchers.

"We were saving our starters in case we went extra innings," Bochy said. "So they knew that was the plan. That’s really why I didn’t use them."

Miller’s omission marked the second straight year Atlanta had a starter on the NL roster who didn’t actually pitch. The difference, though, is last year Julio Teheran started the Sunday before the break, making him ineligible.

But not playing was a scenario that Miller knew could play itself out.

"Obviously they bring more than enough guys," he said. "You saw all the guys that got in there tonight were great pitchers and have been around for a while. I knew there was a chance it might not happen, but at the same time, you could’ve got in there. It was kind of a toss-up. You know, flip a coin."

Hours before the game, Miller sat at his char in a clubhouse, joking with the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, while the likes of the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Nationals’ Max Scherzer milled around. The realization that the 24-year-old, who is in his third MLB season, is playing at a level that has put him on the same All-Star team is undoubtedly surreal.

"You face these guys, but you never really … you don’t know them until you get here and actually meet them and they’re all great guys," Miller said. "I’ve been talking to Kershaw, Max, and it’s pretty cool, talking to a couple of Cy Young winners and stuff like that.

To see the things that they’ve done in their careers and to be a part of all this with them — everybody here — is pretty cool."

While Cy Young winners and MVPs littered the Great American Ballpark field, it was the first-timers that dominated the proceedings. There were 33 players making their debuts and 20 age 25 or younger, the most ever.

Miller was sharing a spot in both of those clubs with fellow 24-year-old Wacha.

Former Cardinals teammates before Miller was dealt to the Braves in a four-player deal that sent Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to St. Louis, Miller and Wacha remain close.

When both were named to to the NL team during the All-Star Selection Show, Wacha texted Miller, telling him "Congrats" and "Can’t wait to see you."

"We live down in Houston down in the offseason, about a block away," Wacha said. "So we workout together and hangout together and it’s cool, getting to meet up with him here again."

While the St. Louis right-hander was being interviewed by a team television reporter, Miller stuck his head around the column separating his locker from those of the collection of Cardinals on hand and began moving his mouth in an exaggerated pantomime.

" It’s fun to see your old teammates and see them doing well and you obviously still pull for them even though you’re not playing together and to see them being successful," Miller said. "(Wacha) and his first All-Star appearance and same with (Trevor) Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, it’s fun to do that with those guys, guys you know, and we’ve been enjoying ourselves."

And they’ve enjoyed watching the emergence of Miller (5-5), who in his first season as a Braves is boasting a 2.38 ERA — ninth in the majors — with 95 strikeouts and 35 walks.

"I expected him to be in this situation," said Wacha, who is 10-3 with a 2.93 ERA. "He’s had a great first half and I look forward to watching him in the second half continuing to dominate."

St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, a seven-time All-Star, says he saw this in Miller when they were together. While the righty struggled during his first 19 starts, posting a 4.29 ERA at the break, Molina chalked it up to a young pitcher learning to adjust.

"I told him many times, he was one of the best pitchers that we used to have," Molina said. "Obviously, when you’re young you’re going to make mistakes. But right now he’s figuring that out and try to be on top of his game and right now he’s doing it."

If sharing the All-Star stage wasn’t enough, the Cardinals will get a look at Miller, who is projected to make his second start post-break on July 25 at Busch Stadium.

"Hopefully (on July 25), I don’t face Carlos or Wacha," Miller told the St. Louis ‘Post-Dispatch. "I don’t want anybody throwing too hard. But it will still be weird, no matter who I face."

But for this day, as part of the best the NL had to offer — even if he didn’t get to show it on the field — Miller was back with those old teammates by virtue of playing at the highest level of his career.

"He’s been working hard since the first day he got to the big leagues,’ Molina said. "I’m just happy for him because he’s a great guy, a great pitcher. He wants to be one of the best and right now he’s showing that."

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney