Cardinals top prospect Shelby Miller now pitching at Double-A

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The Cardinals selected Texas high school pitcher Shelby Miller with the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, confident that his sharp high-90s fastball could one day make him a major league ace.

That day may be coming soon.

Miller was promoted to Double-A Springfield last week after opening the 2011 season with a 2.89 ERA and a dominant 81/20 K/BB ratio over 53 innings at High-A Palm Beach. He struck out 140 batters in 104 1/3 innings last season with Low-A Quad Cities, issuing only 33 walks along the way.

This winter, Baseball America rated Miller as the 13th-best prospect in baseball. ESPN’s Keith Law had him as baseball’s No. 4 prospect last week.

The 20-year-old right-hander made his debut for the Springfield Cardinals on Friday in front of friends and family in Corpus Christi, Texas. He allowed just one earned run over six strong innings, fanning five batters against two walks and scattering seven hits to earn his first career victory above the Single-A level.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a quick profile of Miller late Saturday night. The Cardinals, who preach a pitch-to-contact approach with most of their starters, have been slowly molding his off-speed stuff to be as effective as his signature heater. Instead of throwing a looping curveball like he did in high school, Miller now has a “power curve” that is tighter and pairs better with his fastball.

Miller could jump to Triple-A Memphis by the start of next season and could arrive in the majors by mid-2012.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.