Miller impressive in first start of the spring

VIERA, Fla. (AP) — Shelby Miller isn’t likely to break camp with the St. Louis Cardinals this spring. The 21-year-old pitching prospect gave a good indication, though, he’s not far away from being able to make an impact in the big leagues.

Overcoming the early jitters of his first spring training start, Miller allowed one run on two hits in two innings Wednesday against the Washington Nationals in a game stopped after nine innings tied at 3.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was particularly impressed with the way Miller was able to mix up his pitches, instead of simply relying on an overpowering fastball.

“He’s just got good stuff,” Matheny said. “He’s starting to use his off-speed pitches a little better. He’s getting a feel of when to use them when he’s behind in the count. He’s maturing every time he gets out there.”

The first inning produced a scare for St. Louis when Miller collided with Daniel Descalso, who was chasing a wind-blown popup from third base.

Miller said he felt pain in his calf, but insisted he would be all right. He retired the Nationals in order in the next inning.

Miller has been picked the Cardinals’ minor league pitcher of the year the past two seasons. While he is likely to start this season in Triple-A, he isn’t hiding the fact he’d like to make the jump to the big leagues at some point soon.

“I definitely feel closer than I have the past two years, just because I’ve thrown in the high minor leagues and succeeded,” he said. “I had a really good year last year and hopefully will get an opportunity to pitch in St. Louis this year.”

Being able to rely on more than just his fastball is not only something he learned facing Double-A hitters last season, it also could be the key to ramping up that big league timetable.

“It’s something that needs to be done for me to get to St. Louis, because it’s something that’s going to help me in the long run,” Miller said. “I’ve always loved throwing fastballs more in the past, but now I’m getting to love to throw my changeup and curveball more because it’s fun to watch the pitch move, and it’s fun to make the hitters look a little silly sometimes, if you can.”

Note: Cardinals OF Adron Chambers’ pants were noticeably tighter Wednesday after former St. Louis star Willie McGee told the speedster the baggy pants he had on made him look less aerodynamic. “Willie told him that early in the day, and by the end of the day, he’s already got leotards on,” Matheny said. “That’s respect.”

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