JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- The last time Miles Mikolas threw a major league pitch was August 25, 2014. It was two days after his 26th birthday and, pitching for the Texas Rangers, he tossed eight scoreless innings against the Seattle Mariners.
The last pitch of his outing struck out Endy Chavez, and Mikolas was done in the majors for three years.
He headed east, working to refine his skill set. He spent three seasons pitching for the Yomiuri Giants, and slowly built himself into a complete pitcher.
“Pre-Japan, I was probably mostly fastball, curveball and mixed in the slider a little bit. I could be a little wild at times. Post-Japan I’m a little more of a complete pitcher. Fastball, curveball, slider for strikes, mix in a changeup, change speeds better, work the count a little better,” he said.
When the Cardinals came calling in the 2017 offseason, it was a perfect match for Mikolas. He grew up in Jupiter, Florida, the Cardinals’ spring training home. His mom was from St. Louis. He once wore the Cardinal uniform in a high school all star game at Roger Dean Stadium.
So when he took the mound Sunday, back on the field he played on 10 years ago, he tried to keep the moment from getting too big.
“I expected to be in a baseball game, I expected it to be a nice day. Other than that I tried not to think about what was gonna go on too much,” he said. “Once you get out there and things get going it’s like riding a bike.”
He hit the pedals in stride, but the rust found him fast.
His first MLB hitter was 2017 World Series MVP George Springer, and like Chavez three years before him, he went down to the strikeout.
Unfortunately, things went downhill from there. Mikolas gave up seven hits over the next four outs, all to the right side, allowing six runs and walking one.
His fastball command wasn’t where he wanted it, with pitches catching more of the zone than intended. He missed down and in when he was shooting for down and away. His breaking ball would vary between eye-poppingly sharp and nonthreatening.
In all, it looked like his first spring start.
“You try to shake off most of the rust in the bullpen, but sometimes you can’t shake it hard enough out there,” he said. “But new team, new country. It was good to get my feet wet.”
He also threw a great deal of fastballs in fastball counts, something he wouldn’t do if he was pitching in a live game. It’s not uncommon for pitchers working through their command issues to throw predictable pitches early in spring, because they don’t really care whether they get hit or not.
Still, it wasn’t the dynamic first impression Mikolas was hoping for. Despite the rough start, he was still as loose and optimistic as ever. There was still a baseball game, and the weather was still great.
“I wanted to get my work in,” he said. “You can’t get your work in if you go three up, three down, I guess.”