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Shelby Miller has had an up-and-down career, but it’s been mostly down in recent years. When the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal this offseason, nobody thought much of it, but he is turning heads in camp. Can it lead to a roster spot?
It’s always important to remember that spring training results should be taken with a grain of salt, but so far this spring he has pitched in Wholesale Chicago Cubs Jerseys four games, made one start and has a 1.29 ERA with eight strikeouts in seven innings. He credits his success to a slider that has become his main out pitch this spring.
We recently noted Miller is a possible candidate to round out the rotation for the Cubs in the 2021 season. That’s likely a long shot, but bullpen roles and spots are constantly changing, and if he keeps pitching like this, it’ll be hard to deny Miller an opportunity.
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Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams and Jake Arrieta will take up four spots, and guys like Miller, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills will be fighting for the last two spots. The Cubs are still waiting on the status of Alzolay’s option, and that could dictate some of the pitching decisions for this years team.
Miller has battled injuries and a lack of success for the past four years. In 2017 and 2018, he started four games each and missed most of the year with injury. In 2019, he made eight starts and 19 appearances with Rangers, posting an 8.59 ERA. He last saw success in 2015 with the Braves, pitching to a 3.02 ERA before the wheels came off with the Diamondbacks the next season, and he’s never recovered.
Cubs: Time is on Miller’s side
Miller is still only 30, so he has time to revive his career. Maybe his days as a starting pitcher are done, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have success as a relief pitcher for the rest of his career. If the Cubs can find a diamond in the rough with Miller, that will just give them another weapon to use moving forward. Baseball is a long season and the right-hander will give Chicago innings at some point, whether that be out of the rotation or the pen.
Miller was once a power pitcher that would use his fastball to blow hitters away. Once hitters started timing it up and hitting it, he started to lose his success. The development of this slider will help him become a better pitcher rather than just a hard thrower.
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Miller still may not make the team, given the sheer number of guys in the mix for a bullpen spot and the relative depth of the rotation candidates, but he is doing his best to make sure he opens his eyes to get, if nothing else, a long, hard look from Chicago.