JUPITER, Fla. -- Shelby Miller may have the been the Cardinals' last rotation candidate to debut this spring, but his outing against the Nationals on Saturday served as a reminder that he shouldn't be overlooked.
Miller entered in the fourth inning, threw 12 pitches and made the Nationals' hitters look uncomfortable en route to striking out the side. He allowed Ian Desmond's solo homer in the fifth, though he avoided any other trouble on a day when the wind was blowing out of Roger Dean Stadium.
"It drags when you see your teammates out there competing and you're in the dugout waiting to throw," Miller said. "But I feel like I'm where I actually need to be. Last year, I didn't feel like I was up to where the other pitchers were. I was behind and wasn't pitching as good as I should have been. Now I feel like I'm where I need to be and that I'm competing really well."
Miller had been scheduled to make his spring debut last weekend until shoulder soreness stalled his throwing program. The setback was minor, and the right-hander looked anything but rusty during his two-inning appearance.
"He was making good pitches," manager Mike Matheny said of the former first-round Draft pick. "I think it's going to be very helpful as he spends time with [catcher] Yadi [Molina] and watches how Yadi uses his instincts. I think [Shelby] grew up a lot last year in the game and all the way around."
Miller is competing against Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal for the final spot in the Cardinals' rotation. Rosenthal has already logged five Grapefruit League innings. Kelly pitched two scoreless innings in his debut on Friday.
Though Miller may not be starting many Grapefruit League games as the month progresses, he will be building his pitch count up so that he can handle a starting load by the time the season starts. What he does in those appearance will go far in helping to dictate where he'll be making his April starts.
"My ultimate goal is to be a starter in the big leagues for a very long time, and I feel like this is a great opportunity to start that career in St. Louis," Miller said. "I'm just trying to compete and win it and let everybody know that I'm ready for that role. Having a good spring would open some eyes to let people know I'm ready.
"I feel like I'm in a good spot right now. The biggest thing is getting more starts under my belt and letting Mike and the staff know I'm ready to win the spot."
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.