Cardinals First Rounder Gets Big Opportunity

Jupiter, Fla. — The Cardinals' top prospect, righthander Shelby Miller, knew he would be making an appearance in big league camp sometime this spring. He just didn't expect it to be this soon, nor in this role.

Needing depth to fill out their major league workouts and protect them against vacant innings early in exhibition games, the Cardinals added to the ranks of their non-roster invitations.

The club extended one of them to Miller, the 19th overall pick in last summer's draft. St. Louis did the same thing last year when it brought 2008 first-rounder Brett Wallace to big league camp. But Miller's appearance was as rare as his selection in the draft.

Miller was the first high school pitcher taken in the first round by the Cardinals since 1991, and he's the first pitcher to scoot from the draft to big league camp since Braden Looper in 1997.

"I have the opportunity to meet a lot of new guys, to be around the (big league) club for the first time—this is exciting for me," Miller said. "It could give me a chance to grow up a bit. I know what I'm here to do."

What he did first was throw a bullpen for pitching coach Dave Duncan, who had not seen Miller before. Miller showed an easy, consistent delivery and good life on his fastball and changeup. He may appear in an exhibition game, though only to fill leftover innings.

The pitching coach laughed when asked if he remembered a younger battery than the one featuring Miller and second-round pick Robert Stock. Another 2009 draft pick, Stock reported with the catchers this spring, and at 20 he combined with 19-year-old Miller for the youngest battery around. The two are earmarked to start the season together in low Class A Quad Cities.


• With Brendan Ryan rehabbing from wrist surgery, Tyler Greene, a first-round pick in 2005, figures to get ample playing time this spring. Greene could use the at-bats to assert his role as the backup shortstop or enter as a dark horse for the Cardinals opening at third base.

• Manager Tony La Russa said a byproduct of his coaching staff's stability is the lack of upward mobility for minor league coaches. "The negative is we're blocking the heck out of guys in the minor leagues," he said. "Wish there was a way around there."