(BaseballStL) -- On a muggy 87-degree night, a logical injury concern for Shelby Miller would have been cramping -- after all, he’s dealt with it during two previous outings at Busch Stadium. But on Wednesday, a line drive off the bat of the game’s first batter struck the 22-year-old rookie in his throwing elbow thus ending his day after only two pitches thrown.
Miller, who quickly threw his glove off and squatted as a trainer and manager Mike Matheny rushed to his aid, knows it could have been a lot worse.
“It feels good. I mean it doesn’t feel good, but it’s better than it could be,” Miller said. “It got me right in between two major bones in my arm.”
And although he failed to dodge the line drive, Miller avoided serious injury after X-Rays revealed no fracture. It’s being classified as a right elbow contusion.
Miller received treatment on the elbow, which showcased the stitches of the baseball that hit him, for the rest of the nearly four-hour game. He said he could probably have pitched after the pain subsided.
The only problem was the pain didn’t go away in time and the Cardinals were forced to use their bullpen, which doesn’t have a “true” long relief pitcher now with Joe Kelly in the starting rotation.
“We go with who’s fresh and who can throw for us,” Matheny said. “There were a couple young pitchers I was trying to stay away from today. I felt, for their good, unless an emergency I was going to try and do it, and our starters have been prepared that the next-day guy, if something happens, you got to be ready to go.”
The two protected pitchers were Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, who were both used in Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So that’s when Michael Blazek, who had pitched three innings since July 30, made his way to the mound to throw his warmup pitches in front of a crowd of 43,523 fans. With a runner on second base, as a result of the carom on the hit off Miller’s elbow, Blazek threw a scoreless opening frame despite allowing an additional hit and walk.
In the meantime, Thursday’s starting pitcher, Jake Westbrook, instantly put his spikes on and started warming up to enter the game.
“We obviously didn’t have him ready on the spot, but he had time,” Matheny said. “As soon as Blazek hit the mound he was already upstairs getting stretched, getting the spikes on and then getting his mind right. Then he was in the bullpen and had the half inning to get himself ready.”
It’s a different warmup for a starting pitcher, who normally begins to stretch and throw twenty minutes before game time, to be ready on a whim to throw the next inning. It was something Westbrook hadn’t done in the regular season since April 19, 2004 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians.
His first relief inning was atrocious. He allowed six runs on five hits while hurling 34 pitches in the second inning.
“You want to come in and do what you can,” Westbrook said. “Bottom line is I didn’t do that, just didn’t pitch very well and that hurt us.”
Westbrook’s struggles may have actually helped the Cardinals in the long run as he gave the team 4.2 innings of relief despite allowing a total of nine runs on 13 hits.
“I was hoping to be in there as long as they let me be in there just for the fact of keeping the bullpen from throwing so much,” Westbrook said.
The example Westbrook set will likely resonate with the core of rookie arms inside the Cardinals’ clubhouse, including Miller.
“Westy stepped up tonight and he probably didn’t do as well as he wanted to, but it just goes on to show how classy our veterans are in this clubhouse and how much they just want to help this team win games,” Miller said.
The 13-4 trouncing at the hands of the Dodgers may look bad shortly after seeing it, but the bullpen should remain relatively fresh as the team used only three “true” relievers in the game (Blazek, Randy Choate and Keith Butler). The team also expects to make a call-up from the minors to bolster the bullpen prior to Thursday’s game.
The team also announced Carlos Martinez would start Thursday’s game.
In another effort to keep the bullpen fresh, the Cardinals used backup catcher Rob Johnson to get the final out of the ninth inning. Johnson, who previously made a pitching appearance for the New York Mets in 2012, struck out reliever Paco Rodriguez looking. His fastball topped out at 90 miles per hour.
“I looked down there and as soon as (Derek Lilliquist) walked towards the phone, Rob was taking his gear off. I think he knew,” Matheny said. “We have a couple pitchers who petition to be position players and every once in a while you get a position player that lets it be known he isn’t afraid to go to the mound, and Rob has done that in the past.”
“He’s got a great arm, no question.”