Efficient Miller impresses in first spring start

Efficient Miller impresses in first spring start

JUPITER, Fla. -- Aside from Adam Wainwright, who will start for St. Louis on Thursday, the Cardinals have now watched each of their starting pitchers take the mound in a spring game. And with his outing on Wednesday, Shelby Miller set the early bar.

After giving up a leadoff homer to Daniel Nava, Miller retired the final eight batters he faced. He struck out five, featured an improved curveball and showcased a developing cut fastball that Miller believes could be a new weapon. He did all this while being efficient (35 pitches in 2 2/3 innings), a quality that came and went during his rookie season.

"I know competing here is what it's all about," Miller said. "If I feel good, physically feel good and feel the ball coming out of my hand good, everything is going to be there eventually."

The competition he finds himself in this year is a bit different from the one he emerged from last year as the team's fifth starter. That was Miller's job to win. This year, the rotation spot is his to lose.

"Am I comfortable knowing that I have a better shot making the team? Yeah," Miller said. "But at the same time, nothing is guaranteed here, especially with all the young guys that we have. All of them have great arms. My job is to help this team win and pretty much pitch to keep my spot. Because you never know what is going to happen with these guys. They are so good and there is so much ability around here that I feel like I am still competing to keep my spot right now."

Miller has another four spring starts scheduled during which he can solidify that rotation spot. He's not waiting that long, though, to start leaving an impression.

"We talked about our [workout groups] and some of our young guys leading groups, Shelby absolutely took that personally and took pride in the fact that he could be a leader," manager Mike Matheny said. "The way he's going about his business, just the professionalism, he's made some real nice strides in that regard."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.