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.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.