CARDS EXTRAS

Miller's so-so spring continues

2014-03-25T13:15:00Z 2015-02-10T14:04:42Z Miller's so-so spring continuesBy Rick Hummel rhummel@post-dispatch.com • 314-340-8196 stltoday.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. • Shelby Miller finished the Grapefruit League portion of his spring training with a 5.93 earned-run average after giving up three runs in five innings Monday in a 5-3 exhibition loss to the New York Mets.

Miller’s next outing will be in Jupiter, Fla., where he will be left — as he was last year — to pitch in a minor-league game.

That will be while his teammates are traveling north, this time to Memphis, before he joins them in Cincinnati for the season opener on Monday.

In sum, his performance this spring was all right, but there were some glitches and he managed to pitch five innings in just one of his starts.

If Miller had fielded his position as he should have Monday, the Mets’ three-run third might have been different. Two of the three hits the Mets had were scratch hits, but Miller walked three in the first three innings while throwing 58 pitches. He then used just 27 in the final two frames.

“The only inning I really struggled in was the third,” said Miller, whose indecision on Eric Young’s bunt down the first-base line cost him a hit when he probably should have been more aggressive on making the play before diving belatedly for the ball.

Daniel Murphy then doubled past the first-base bag to put the Mets ahead.

“We had a little confusion on the bunt,” said Miller, referring to himself and first baseman Allen Craig. “I probably shouldn’t have given up on it. I should have taken charge on that ball. That really was the only inning I didn’t have control of the game.”

Manager Mike Matheny, after pausing to consider a question, thought Miller wasn’t as crisp as he and Miller would have liked.

“He gave up three hits but he was working behind,” Matheny said. “The first hit was a bloop and the second was a play that he’s got to make at first base, which ended up costing him a couple of runs.

“He’s got to go after the ball. If he has the ball, he has a chance to step on the bag. But fast runners make you panic a little more than what you need to.

“He got better as he went with his fastball. Overall, I don’t think he was as sharp as he wanted to be. He didn’t give up a lot of hits but he had to work real hard to get there.”

For instance, Miller threw only 13 pitches in a scoreless first inning but then walked the leadoff hitter in the second.

“That isn’t what you really want,” said Miller, who issued his other two walks in the third, including another leadoff walk. “I kind of got punished for that,” he said.

In the final two innings, Miller said he corrected some mechanical issues and his fastball was more effective as he struck out three of six hitters.

A 15-game winner and a third-place finisher in the rookie of the year balloting last year, Miller came to camp hoping to improve his cutter, curveball and changeup, which he thought he had accomplished.

“But I wouldn’t say I’m pleased,” Miller said. “There were games that could have been different but, at the same time, I was working on stuff. There are things I still need to work on.

“I felt like I made strides every single start. In this one, I kind of lost it in the third and fell behind in some counts and battled some mechanics issues, but I fixed it and now ... get ready for Pittsburgh.”

Miller famously was excluded from the rotation for the Pirates’ series last year in the playoffs because of his 0-4 record and 5.32 earned-run average against them during the regular season, a happenstance he aims to correct.

“I need to redeem myself a little bit against them. I’ll be ready. I want to face them," said Miller, who is expected to pitch at Pittsburgh a week from Friday after Lance Lynn, who was 3-1 against the Reds last year, would face Cincinnati the previous day.

No official announcement has been made.

Later, Miller, heeding the advice of veteran reliever Randy Choate, hastened to add that he wasn’t trying to provide any bulletin board material for the Pirates.

“I want to beat everybody,” he said.

The Cardinals, as their exhibition record fell below .500 again (10-11-2), probably were fortunate they didn’t lose any players Monday.

Right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who made a leaping catch in right center and collided with center fielder Peter Bourjos on a ball that Bourjos caught, was hit in the back of his batting helmet by an off-speed Diasuke Matsuzaka pitch in the sixth inning.

Bourjos, the next hitter, was hit on the upper part of his right hand by a Vic Black pitch but “he didn’t catch me clean,” said Bourjos.

Both stayed in the game.

“That’s a bad spot when you start talking about the hand,” Matheny said.

Piscotty said he had been hit in the helmet before.

“That’s why you wear a helmet. That’s fine,” he said. “They sound worse than they actually are.”

Assessing his active day, Piscotty said, “I’m glad to be healthy after that game. It was a little wet out there.”

Matheny said before the game that he didn’t plan to fully trim his roster until after Friday night’s exhibition contest in Memphis. He said the club would leave some players there, where the Cardinals have their Triple A club, before flying on to Cincinnati.

Piscotty, who has had only a season and a half in the minors, might be one of those players. And that probably isn’t a conversation Matheny is looking forward to having.

“I wish I knew,” said Piscotty, who is hitting .333 for the spring. “We’re just kind of along for the ride. But it’s fun. It’s part of the whole deal.”

“He had another good day,” Matheny said. “He’s probably the most surprising of everybody we’ve had.”

Rick is a baseball writer/columnist at the Post-Dispatch 

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