On the outside looking in, it would seem that Shelby Miller would enter this spring with plenty of questions, and perhaps even a chip on his shoulder as well. That after his inexplicable absence from the Cardinal postseason run, even the most accomplished arm in the Cardinal offering enters his sophomore season on some questionable terms. Yet he has found peace of mind in a sole focus forward, and not on work left not started.
As could be expected, he does not have the answers about why he was left out of the mix save for one inning in the second game of the Division Series against the Pirates. However, he shared in the general expectation that, at some point, he would make an impact in the postseason. However, it was not to be, and that is a mystery that he still cannot get a grasp on.
“It’s kind of a toss-up to be honest. The best answer I can give you is that we had such a good thing going,” Miller speculated. “I could see myself pitching outside of Pittsburgh. I knew I could get held back against them with the struggles I had with them late in the season.”
Yet, after that initial appearance, there was nothing else to be heard from Miller in 2013. Many have speculated that he was injured or had hit a predetermined innings limit on the year, which has become common place for under-25 year old pitchers in today’s game.
However, Miller is quick to dispel that notion—as far as he knows. There was no injury concern expressed to him from the club, and he had no setbacks himself. “Physically, I felt amazing. I didn’t feel any better or worse no than I did at any point in the season.”
Despite Game Six of the World Series being nearly three months removed, you can’t help but to still sense some frustration from Miller regarding how his rookie season ended. While he understands that the usually prevailing “hot hand” concept, combined with the depth of options, prevailed regarding the selections made for the October mound, it is also understandable why he would have a deserved sense of frustration as well. Coming off an excellent rookie debut, where he justified the long-standing hype around his arrival, and feeling strong enough to continue throwing at a high level in September (3-0, 2.76 ERA in 29.1 September innings), even a reduced role in a relief capacity would be expected—yet never materialized.
“Yeah, it was kind of weird. I was just down in the bullpen the whole time. The first time I got up was game six of the World Series. After getting in against Pittsburgh, I was just kind of a cheerleader and having great seats for the game.”
Regarding those not received answers, and if he wanted them now, “No, not really. The season just kind of ended and I put it in the past,” Miller offers up. “Obviously I was little upset that I didn’t pitch, but I just put it away. I just wanted to be ready for a big offseason and getting ready for the spring. I didn’t want to dwell on the past and not pitching in October. I’m not going to go up to anybody and even ask; I’m not worried about it anymore.”
“I’m just going to let it be a mystery, a mystery unsolved.”
Yet it is a mystery he is content to leave as is going ahead. He enters the spring in a newly place of personal affirmation and professional validation. He was married shortly after the season, and has the satisfaction of the body of work he was being able to issue being recognized with a third place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
It is the competition ahead that Miller has his sights on now, not that that he missed out on. About if he feels he’s lost his role as a starter, he says no, but “I know were going into camp battling with even more guys, but it’s about being prepared for the spring.”
Reaching 200 innings in 2014 is his personal goal, but getting to a point of irreplaceably for the Octobers to come is as well. As he returns to the field, his immediate past is something that he’s content with just leaving as is—for his personal progress.