The St. Louis Cardinals had not been able to convince top prospect Shelby Miller to execute the pitches called by his catcher/coaches from the bench. As a result, in mid-June, organization officials instituted a “no-shake” rule for the talented 21-year-old. The rule required the right-hander to use and improve his offspeed pitches because he was not allowed to override the initial pitch selection.
In another notable move that had occurred the week before, Joe Kelly had been called up to St. Louis on June 8 ahead of the Cardinals top prospect Miller. Kelly was also a part of the Double-A Springfield rotation with Miller in the second half of last season and in the Triple-A Memphis starting five with him this year.
Still in Memphis, Miller’s initial results under the new rule were not pretty. On June 16, in his first appearance under the new restrictions, Miller allowed seven runs, five earned, on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked three and only struck out three while allowing a home run for the sixth consecutive start. At that point, Miller’s season ERA had risen to 6.00.
After skipping a turn, Miller returned with a solid one-run performance over five innings on June 27. Perhaps it appeared the corner was turned, but it turned out to be an exception. In the next two starts, he was back to the old Miller, allowing eight runs in 6 1/3 innings.
In summary, his first four starts with the no-shake rule resulted in three losses, a no-decision and a 7.88 ERA. Miller fanned 20 but walked as many batters as he allowed hits, 15 each, in 16 innings.
Then, starting on July 14, it seemed to come together. Miller has cranked out five solid outings in his most recent six. His strikeouts are up and his walks way down, 35 to just three in 36 innings. During that stretch, Miller’s ERA is 3.12 and he earned the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week nod for the period covering July 30-August 5.
Another very notable action occurred in the Cardinals system in mid-July. Trevor Rosenthal was elevated all the way from Double-A Springfield to fill a bullpen need in St. Louis. Like Kelly, Rosenthal had to be added to the Cardinals 40-man roster first.
The way he had been pitching to that point, the fact Miller wasn’t chosen again should have been no surprise to him or anyone else. Since then, there has been a big change in his results, however.
With 21 games remaining for the Redbirds after Monday and no post-season hopes, Miller looks to have four starts left in 2012. He can’t bring down his season ERA from its current 5.22 to its expected level, but he can continue to establish momentum toward restoring his full top prospect luster and head into 2013 on a positive note.
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