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New Cardinals infielder knows what winning 'feels like' but still hasn't made it to playoffs

New Cardinals infielder knows what winning 'feels like' but still hasn't made it to playoffs

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Thursday workout at Cardinals spring training

St. Louis Cardinal infielder Brad Miller throws during fielding practice at St. Louis Cardinals spring training on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. The Cardinals signed LH-hitting infielder Miller to a $2 million deal on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

JUPITER, Fla. — One of four current Cardinals (along with Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter and Paul DeJong) to have hit at least 30 homers in a big-league season, Brad Miller has been in high demand the past two years. He spent time in the Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland, New York Yankees and Philadelphia organizations before signing a $2 million deal with the Cardinals on Wednesday.

One thing in common is that all those organizations either contended for the playoffs or were in the playoffs in the past two seasons, as Miller, who signed as a free agent with several of those clubs, wanted to be with a winner.

“We’re trying to win all the time, so we want an organization that reflects that,” Miller said while checking into Cardinals camp Thursday.

The only problem, so far, for the 30-year-old lefthanded batter is that while all his teams have been good in that time, he hasn’t been around any of them late in the year to make the playoffs. He has yet to play in a postseason game although he said, “I got a taste of what a winning team and clubhouse feels like.”

Miller, who had been pursued by the Cardinals the past two offseasons, said, “When they reached out, a lot of interest, obviously, on my end. Everything I’ve heard about the Cardinals is pretty positive, and playing in Busch Stadium pretty positive and a lot of fun.”

General manager Michel Girsch said, “At this point in his career, he’s trying to find good teams to play for. When he’s had a choice, he’s signing with good teams where he can win rather than going somewhere else that could guarantee more playing time but had no chance at success.”

Miller’s most recent exposure to Busch Stadium was a success. On Aug. 27, 2017 while with Tampa Bay, he homered to center off Cardinals righthander Lance Lynn.

“(The Cardinals) have communicated that there’s a lot of opportunity. I’m not quite sure where it’s going to come from, but that’s kind of what I’m used to,” Miller said. “I have a lot of experience playing shortstop — that’s what I came up as — but since then I’ve moved all over.”

Miller has played every position but catcher and pitcher in a big-league career that began with Seattle, where he learned to play the outfield, he said, by taking countless fly balls from former Cardinal Andy Van Slyke, a Mariners coach.

“I’m always ready to hit and prepared to play any position,” the Orlando native said. “I brought all my gloves. I’m ready to rock.”

In 2019 alone and coming off right hip labrum surgery the year before, Miller was with four clubs. In spring training he was in Los Angeles. After he and the Dodgers cut ties, he signed with Cleveland, where he had 36 at-bats before veteran Jason Kipnis came off the injured list. Let go again, Miller, 29, took a minor-league offer from the Yankees at Scranton-Wilkes Barre in the International League.

“You have to prove yourselves all the time,” Miller said. “I went down there and proved I wasn’t a Triple-A player, and I found a spot in Philly.”

Miller hit 12 homers for the Phillies in just more than three months, banging eight in the final month of the season.

“After a couple of rough years of injuries , I feel like I’m put back together,” Miller said. “My legs are back under me, and I feel I can be a better contributor offensively, defensive and on the bases. My legs were pretty torn up for a while.”

Miller had hit 30 homers for Tampa Bay in 2016, and he had a .938 on-base-plus slugging percentage against righthanded pitchers last season.

“He hit 30 home runs as a middle infielder,” Girsch said. “That’s when 30 home runs meant something. That was harder to do. Not everyone hit 30 home runs that year.

“We’ve always liked him as a player. I can remember seeing his name out of the (2001) draft.”

Manager Mike Shildt said, “We’ll determine his role as we go. But ... another option from the left side and a guy who can play multiple positions.”

Miller may indeed have more chance to play this year, with rosters having expanded to 26 players. But, he said, “In my mindset, I don’t think like the 26th man. I think like a starter, like I’m ready to roll.

“But, having an extra position player is a big advantage for a lot of us, especially veteran players who have a track record.

“I think it’s going to be a great fit for both sides.”

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