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If Jaime Garcia goes on the DL is it (Shelby) Miller time?

With Jaime Garcia getting his second look over by a doctor in as many weeks, is it time that the Cardinals call up top prospect Shelby Miller.

If Garcia goes on the disabled list, which is a likely possibility judging from the fact that he missed one start due to injury and then, when he tried to come back for the next one, he was completely ineffective, what choice do the Cardinals have?

By no coincidence, when the big league club shuffled its rotation because of Garcia's balky elbow, the ailing lefty's spot in the rotation was matched up with Millers spot in the Class AAA starting order. That would make him a perfect fit for the jump because he could stay on his routine.

The bad news is that if the Birds call up Miller, they start his free agent clock ticking. So it's pretty much an all-in situation. You don't want to ship the guy back to the minors for another half season when he's burning options and time. On the other hand, you don't want to call up a young phenom too soon and have him turn into the next Anthony Reyes or Rick Ankiel because he isn't ready for the pressure.

The truth is that there aren't many other options in Memphis for the Cardinals. Miller has struggled to a 4-4 record with a 5.18 ERA and 70 hits allowed in 57 1/3 innings of work and an eye popping 12 home runs surrendered. He's only managed to pitch five innings or more in two of his last five starts and appears to be having trouble with his control. Only Joe Kelly has done much better with a 2.86 ERA and 75 hits allowed in 72 2/3 innings. He's given up four homers and has struck out 45. But he has only won two of seven decisions so far this season and had an awful May in which he got cuffed around and lost the decision four games in a row.

I could see the Cardinals bringing up someone else over Miller if that guy was a veteran or a journeyman whose future was less of an issue. But there is no one of that type in Memphis. And both Miller and Kelly are highly thought of young prospects whose development can't be sacrificed for a band aid fix.

On the other hand, I believe that teams baby players too much. When Reyes was in St. Louis the Cardinals treated him like he was made out of glass, and it only served to make his fragile ego more brittle. He would battle with La Russa and Duncan over how he should pitch -- high in the zone going for strikeouts like the kid wanted to pitch or low in the zone like Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa wanted to try to produce ground balls. Let the kid get his brains bashed in if he's un-coachable. Let him lose his way instead of yours. I bet he would be a lot more receptive to tips after he got knocked out of a game in the second inning.

I don't think that Miller or Kelly fit that stubborn mold. So, hopefully, things work out better. But the Cardinals should be committed to whichever one they bring up. Even if it means that they go to the bullpen when Garcia or Chris Carpenter come back.

What's wrong with a pitcher working out of the 'pen and learning how to battle major league hitters in smaller, more manageable doses? It's not like the St. Louis bullpen doesn't need help anyway.

Any way you slice it, the Cardinals are going to have a tough time deciding how to fill the hole if Garcia is out for an extended period of time.