VIERA, Florida -- 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, that he’s not that 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 against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday in a game stopped after nine innings with the score 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.”
Jordan Zimmermann threw three scoreless innings in his spring training debut for the Nationals. He struck out three and gave up three hits.
Zimmermann has said he hopes to throw at least 200 innings this season after the club limited him to 161 1-3 in 2011 when he was a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
“I just wanted to locate the fastball,” Zimmermann said. “I had kind of a rough time today. I was all over the zone with it. But when I needed to make a pitch, I was able to make a pitch. That’s the main thing, locate the fastball and mix in a few off-speed (pitches) for the first time.”
Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn gave up a tying, two-run homer to Carlos Maldonado in the ninth.
Daniel Descalso homered for St. Louis.
Ian Desmond led off the game for Washington with a double and later scored on a single by Jason Michaels.
That first inning also produced a scare for St. Louis when Miller collided with 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.”
NOTES: Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche had hoped to make his spring training debut Wednesday, but now it looks like Saturday at the earliest as he continues to work his way back from a slightly sprained left ankle. LaRoche played in a minor league game Wednesday, which gave him a chance to see some live pitching. ... Jayson Werth’s strained forearm is not a concern and he is in the Nationals’ lineup for Thursday. ... Matheny said reliever Fernando Salas would pitch Thursday against Boston. ... 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.”