Feldman: Miller proves growing pains served him well

Feldman: Miller proves growing pains served him well

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 12: Starter Shelby Miller #40 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers in the first inning at Busch Stadium on April 12, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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by Brian Feldman, News 4 Sports

BaseballStL

Posted on April 18, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 18 at 1:23 PM

(BaseballStL) -- No one likes staring at their ERA and seeing a big fat six immediately to the left of the decimal point.  No one.  Especially not someone who was drafted in the first round, given millions of dollars to forgo college and has always been overwhelming to every hitter he's ever seen.

Yet, that's precisely the situation Shelby Miller found himself in at the All Star break last year in AAA-Memphis.  He was struggling to put it mildly.  He didn't have much faith in his off speed stuff and that allowed hitters to sit dead red on his fastball.  In high school you can get away with it.  In single A you can get away with it.  Even in AA you can get away with it.  But AAA?  Just a step away from the big leagues?  Facing many hitters who have actually been in the show? 

Nah.  You won't get away with that there.  They'll crush those fastballs into next Thursday.  And that's exactly what happened to Miller.

As a result, the top prospect had to grow up in a hurry.  He had to accept the fact he cannot do this alone and is not going to just blow it by people for the rest of his career.  Shelby Miller had to adapt. Quickly.

And he did.

The rest of the 2012 season was as you would hope.  Dominant.  It resulted in a promotion to the big leagues in September and a spot on the playoff roster.  That ability to adapt and learn led to a very nice spring training which won him the final spot in the starting rotation.  And he hasn't looked back.

Miller's thrown 18.1 innings over three starts this season and allowed just four runs (that's a 1.96 ERA).  He's 6th in the National League with a 0.87 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) and has 18 strike outs against just five walks.

Probably the best part, or most encouraging part anyway, of what he's done thus far is his ability to make adjustments during games.  During his most recent outing, Miller had a troublesome first inning against the Pirates where he surrendered four hits and gave up a run.  After that, however, he was nearly untouchable.  Just two hits and one run in the next five frames.  It was a similar story in his start before that too.  Miller gave up a hit to the first batter he saw against the Brewers on the 12th of April but didn't allow another one after that.  He ended up going seven shutout innings for the win.

The point of all of this is simple.  Shelby Miller has grown up.  He accepts the fact he's not going to be a lone wolf who goes out on the mound and does whatever he wants and gets away with it.  This isn't high school.  He needs coaching.  He needs his catcher Yadier Molina.  He needs guidance from Adam Wainwright. 

Staring at a six ERA in AAA when all you've done is dominate your entire life can't be fun.  It probably makes you reevaluate your ability and your career.  Most would go one of two ways with it.  They'd fold under the pressure and let it eat them up, thus wasting their talents for good.  Or they'd go the other direction.  Learning from their mistakes, swallowing their pride and responding to adversity.

It's still early, but it seems Shelby Miller has done the latter.
 

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