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.

Red Sox to extend protective netting at Fenway Park in 2018

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The Red Sox are the latest team to extend the protective netting at their ballpark this winter. According to a statement by club president Sam Kennedy, the exact dimensions of the netting have yet to be determined, but it will likely stretch “all the way to Field Box 79, down the left field line and then all the way down to almost Canvas Alley in the Field Box 9 area.”

Fenway Park received additional protective netting prior to the 2016 season, when the netting behind home plate was lengthened to the home and visitor dugouts. Per Kennedy’s statement, the current expansion should cover everything but the outfield corners, making it nearly impossible for a line drive foul to reach fans in the lower boxes.

After a toddler sustained serious injuries from a 105-MPH foul ball to the face at Yankee Stadium last September, over half of all MLB teams decided to take more extreme preventative measures in advance of the 2018 season. The Brewers, Cardinals, Braves, Astros, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Padres, Nationals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Reds, Blue Jays, Giants, Yankees, Twins and Indians are among the organizations to address the issue over the last several years, while others have yet to take significant action.