(Baseball StL) -- It really feels like yesterday when Tony La Russa watched Shelby Miller throw his first bullpen session at Busch Stadium after being drafted out of high school. Immediately afterward La Russa said Miller very impressive...but now it’s time to just forget about him.
Shelby Miller’s long journey from Quad Cities to Palm Beach to Springfield to Memphis has, finally, brought him to St. Louis. If everything goes right (that is, if he’s learned all the lessons he was supposed to along the way) he shouldn’t ever have to go back to those previously listed cities unless he’s recovering from an injury.
Miller is the most hyped pitching prospect this organization has had since Rick Ankiel. From the day he was drafted, the now 21-year old’s been built up as the next fire baller out of Texas. In the mold of Nolan Ryan and Josh Beckett before him.
Things started off just fine for Miller in his minor league career. And when I say “fine” I mean he lived up to those borderline unrealistic expectations put on him.
As a 19-year old in Quad Cities, he finished with a 3.62 ERA and 140 strikeouts in just 104 innings. Pretty impressive.
As a 20-year old in Palm Beach and Springfield, he had a 2.77 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 139 innings of work. Even more impressive given his age compared to the competition he faced.
But as a 21-year old in Memphis, things got rough. Very rough. Up until the All Star break, the prized prospect in the Redbirds organization could not seem to get anyone out. His ERA was at a whopping 6.17, opponents were hitting better than .290 against him and he surrendered 43 walks in 77 innings.
For the first time in Shelby Miller’s life, he was facing adversity. See, up until then, he could get by on sheer talent alone. His stuff was so good he really didn’t need to work as hard as everyone else. He could get by on his pure ability.
Now, he had to look himself in the mirror, dig deep and get to work. Just like everyone else.
The realization led to a resurgence. After the All Star break, know what his stats were? 2.88 ERA, a .217 opponents batting average and 70 strikeouts compared to just 7 walks.
THAT is what happens when talent meets hard work. THAT is what happens when the gifted decide to nurture and enhance their talent as opposed to just getting by with them.
The Cardinals are in the thick of a playoff race. They need all the help they can get. And Shelby Miller is going to get a chance to provide some of that help.
That bullpen session with Tony La Russa watching was long ago. Miller was a child then. The Cards believe he’s a man now.