Cardinals' Miller on postseason inactivity: 'A mystery unsolved'

News-DemocratJanuary 20, 2014 

— It's been well documented that Shelby Miller, after winning 15 games in the regular season, pitched only once in the postseason last fall for the St. Louis Cardinals.

It remains a head-scratcher to many, including Miller. But Miller said Sunday he isn't interested in seeking answers.

"The season ended and I put it in the past," Miller said Sunday at the team's Winter Warm-Up. "I was a little upset I didn't pitch. (But) I put it away. That was however long ago it was.

"After the season ended, I wanted to be ready for a big offseason and get ready for the spring. I didn't want to dwell on the past as far as not pitching in October. I'm not going up to anybody and asking about it anymore. I'm not worried about it anymore.

"I'm just going to let it be a mystery --a mystery unsolved."

Miller was on the roster for all three postseason series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox. He pitched one inning of Game 2 against Pittsburgh, allowing a bases-empty home run to Starling Marte in a 7-1 loss.

Miller understood being used sparingly against the Pirates, considering he was 0-4 with a 5.32 ERA in four starts against them.

"I knew I was going to get held back a little bit against them with the struggles I had against them later in the season," he said. "(But) I could see myself pitching outside of Pittsburgh."

Beyond that, Miller reasoned that the Cardinals' rotation of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn were pitching so well that manager Mike Matheny didn't want to mess with success.

"The best answer I can give you is that we had such a good thing going," Miller said. "Maybe (Matheny) felt like I hadn't been around and just didn't really have an opportunity to get in there. But we were winning games, so you can't really complain."

Internally, the Cardinals might also have been concern about Miller's workload. He made 31 starts and threw 173 1/3 innings; he never had thrown more than 139 2/3 innings, and that was in 2011 with high-Class A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield.

"I felt like I could have kept going," said Miller, adding that there was nothing physical holding him back. "Physically, I felt amazing. I felt good. I didn't feel any better or worse than I did during the season. That's not the case."

Miller won a spot in the rotation after spring-training competition with Joe Kelly. Miller responded by finishing 15-7 with a 3.06 ERA, placing third in Rookie of the Year balloting.

Miller said his lack of activity last fall isn't something he is using to propel himself to greater heights this season.

"I wish I could have pitched more, but at the same time, the season I had last year is going to push me even more," he said. "I had a good season and I want to be that much better. I want to win 20 games. I want to be a part of winning a World Series and all the good thing and all the right things you want to say.

"It's tough to not get to pitch in the postseason, but at the same time, we had a good thing going. It's hard to change something up."

Miller doesn't sense that he has a diminished role with the Cardinals. Kelly projects to return to the bullpen, along with Carlos Martinez, giving the Cardinals a rotation of Wainwright, Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Miller and Wacha.

"If you're asking if I've lost my role as a starter or anything like that, I don't think so," Miller said. "We're going into camp battling just like I pretty much did last year with even more guys. We'll see what happens. The biggest thing is being prepared for when that time comes this spring."

Miller has been working out diligently and is considered the Cardinals' most prolific weightlifter other than Matt Holliday.

"Holliday is a big dude," Miller said. "Just being around him is hard. He makes the weights scared of him. He's a big guy. He's in there lifting 100-pound dumbbells. I can do that every once in a while when I'm feeling good. I wouldn't say I'm as strong as him, but whoever is in the running for the second (spot), I would be willing to work out with them."

The 6-foot-3 Miller's goal is to maintain his current weight of 225 throughout the season. Greater strength, Miller said, might help him reach another goal.

"A mark for me this year would be 200 innings-plus," he said. "There were games (last season) where I was throwing a weird amount of pitches in two or three innings. I would be at 60 pitches, and that kind of ruins your (attempt) to go deep and log some innings when you're not being as efficient as you want to be.

"This year, I think one of my biggest goals --and something I want to do a lot better at --is go deeper into ballgames. The deeper you go, the better chance you have to win and the better it is for the bullpen. That's what you want out of a starting pitcher."

Miller didn't expect to win the Rookie of the Year Award, which instead went to Florida pitcher Jose Fernandez, with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig finishing second.

"You can't be bummed about it, man," Miller said. "The two guys that were voted ahead of me had really amazing seasons. I think we all kind of knew who was going to win that anyway."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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