Cardinals’ forgotten man Shelby Miller trying stay ready

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Despite an excellent rookie season in which he won 15 games with a 3.06 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 173 innings Shelby Miller has been a forgotten man for the Cardinals in the playoffs, as St. Louis shifted him to the bullpen in favor of Joe Kelly/Lance Lynn and has used him just once as a reliever.

Miller’s role seems unlikely to change in the World Series, but the 22-year-old right-hander is trying to stay ready just in case he’s needed for something beyond mop-up work against the Red Sox.

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Miller threw two innings in a simulated game at Busch Stadium yesterday, and afterward manager Mike Matheny said:

The idea for Shelby and the conversation with Shelby from day one is that he could have an expanded role at any point. He needs to stay sharp. … We need Shelby to stay sharp in his mind, because at any point, we might need him to come and fill a number of different roles. He looked good today, and we were excited to see that.

It’s a testament to the Cardinals’ pitching depth that an arm as good and successful as Miller’s hasn’t even been needed in the playoffs, but it’ll be interesting to see how he looks if Matheny is forced into using him in a key spot at some point. Miller’s last start was September 25.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉