PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny didn't see Shelby Miller at his sharpest in the right-hander's final Grapefruit League start on Monday afternoon against the Mets at Tradition Field. Miller didn't seem to have his best stuff, Matheny said, and he spent too much time working from behind in the count.
On the other hand, Matheny watched Miller improve as he went along, keeping St. Louis competitive in an eventual 5-3 loss.
"He's grown," Matheny said of the 23-year-old. "He continues to get better and he's still working on things, but it's a good sign that we've seen him very good, we've seen him fight, but he's generally gonna keep you in the game and that's just another sign of what he did today."
Miller's spring is now complete, with the exception of a simulated game he will throw against Minor Leaguers on Saturday to prepare for his first regular-season start. He gave up three runs on three hits, walked three and struck out four in five innings on Monday, leaving his ERA at 5.93. He threw 85 pitches, 51 for strikes.
"I wouldn't say I'm pleased," Miller said. "I had a lot of games that could have been different, but at the same time, I was working on stuff, working on a little bit of everything. It's still Spring Training, and we're still here for a reason. We don't go straight into the regular season for these reasons. There's things I need to work on, still need to work on, to continue to get better. But I feel like I've made strides every single start, and this one felt good."
Miller had surrendered a home run in each of his first three spring starts, accounting for almost all of the damage against him.
He kept the ball in the ballpark on Monday, but ran into a big inning anyways. He walked No. 9 hitter Ruben Tejada to begin the third, then couldn't field Eric Young Jr.'s bunt toward first base, leading to a single. Those runners came home on a double by Daniel Murphy, who scored on Curtis Granderson's sacrifice fly. It took right fielder Stephen Piscotty's leaping catch of Lucas Duda's deep drive to end the inning.
But Duda's flyout began a string of seven straight batters Miller retired to finish his day, including three strikeouts.
Miller will now stay at the team's complex in Jupiter, Fla., for his simulated game, which he says he'll approach the same as a normal game, looking to sharpen his command for the regular season. Although the Cardinals haven't revealed when Miller will start, he is expected to face the Pirates on April 4 in Pittsburgh. Miller posted a 5.32 ERA in four outings against the Bucs last season, then was passed over for a potential start against them in the National League Division Series.
"I need to redeem myself a little bit against them," Miller said. "I'll be ready for that one. I want to face them."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.