Top prospect Shelby Miller wins Cardinals’ fifth-starter job

Top prospect Shelby Miller wins Cardinals’ fifth-starter job

When brash Texas high school righthander Shelby Miller was drafted in the first round by the Cardinals in 2009, he announced that one of his goals was to be in a big-league rotation in two years. “That was a little bit of an ego there,” Miller admitted Monday.

Miller, now 22, is a couple of years behind his plan, but he is in a big-league rotation. The Cardinals’ clubhouse was closed for nearly 10 minutes after Monday’s 4-3 exhibition win over Minnesota, a procedure which is standard for the season but highly irregular for spring training.

But manager Mike Matheny had a couple of messages to impart — to young righthanders Miller and Joe Kelly. The competition probably already had been decided, but Miller again seemed to have the better of Kelly as the Cardinals’ two candidates for the fifth starting position both worked in the same game. Afterward, Matheny spoke to Miller and Kelly about their roles when the season begins next Monday. Miller will be the fifth starter, either to start a game on the first trip in San Francisco or to make that start on the first home stand. Kelly, a college reliever, will be in the bullpen, where he was for eight of his 24 regular-season appearances last year and all seven of his postseason outings.

On Monday, Miller permitted eight baserunners in 4 1/3 innings — Minnesota, using mostly its regular lineup, had six hits and two walks — but Miller allowed just one run before being relieved. The ability Miller showed to survive without his best stuff impressed Matheny. “I thought that was a really good testament to him.” said Matheny. “The overall body of work has been very good by Shelby and today was probably his worst. He figured it out late. He made a minor adjustment when Derek (pitching coach Derek Lilliquist) went out to talk to him.