7/19/2013 8:00 P.M. ET
Aided by break, Miller tweaks pitching approach
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Friday marked the three-quarter point in Shelby Miller's stretch of 12 days in between his last start and his next. And while the primary purpose of Miller's extended break was to get him rest and preserve innings for later in the year, the rookie right-hander found an indirect benefit, too.
With the luxury of having three side sessions scheduled during his break, Miller found an opportunity to work on a few specific mechanical and mental tweaks that he believes can help him regain his early-season form.
"[It is] stuff that I think will help me get my control back to where I want it to be," Miller said. "I know my last start [on July 10], it was a little off and a little wild. This break also helps me in that sense as well. Getting to throw three sides in between starts, you get to work on things, and I'm getting back more to where I need to be."
Miller threw two side sessions during the team's trip to Chicago just before the All-Star break. The first was of normal length (about 20-25 pitches). Miller made the second one longer (about 30-35 pitches) and approached it "more game-like," as he described. Miller was to throw one more side session during this first series of the second half before starting against the Phillies on Tuesday.
"Physically, I feel great," Miller said. "I feel like I'm where I need to be. These sides that I've been having, I'm just working on getting the ball down and throwing strikes. That's the biggest thing."
Miller enters the second half having already thrown 104 2/3 innings. If he stays healthy and in the rotation, Miller will easily surpass the 150 1/3 regular-season innings he pitched last season between Triple-A and the Majors. While the Cardinals haven't publicly revealed how many innings they are comfortable letting Miller throw this year, the right-hander said he has his sights set on 180.
He picked the number largely because hitting it would require Miller to be more efficient than he's been for much of the year. Understanding, too, that he doesn't want to exhaust himself before October, Miller welcomed this opportunity to save some innings.
Miller finished the first half 9-6 with a 2.92 ERA. He averaged 5 2/3 innings per start and struck out 112, while walking just 29.
"I think we've been very clear about giving Shelby as much time as we have and being smart with a young player," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's been working very hard in the gym and very hard on his mechanics and his diet and his program. If all those weren't in place, we'd be a lot more cautious and concerned. Right now we're just going to keep watching and listening to how his body responds with the number of innings that he gets."
Holliday taking BP, working back from hamstring injury
ST. LOUIS -- Eight days after pulling his right hamstring while running out a ground ball, Matt Holliday remained out of the Cardinals' lineup due to continued hamstring discomfort.
Though Holliday has improved to the point where he's been able to take batting practice each of the past two days, the Cardinals left fielder said he still felt lingering tightness when trying to pass running tests on Friday afternoon. That meant that he would be watching his fourth straight game from the bench.
"I still feel a little bit in there," Holliday said. "We're going to see how [Saturday] goes and go from there."
Holliday responded with a "maybe" when asked if he expected to start during this weekend's series against San Diego, but he did leave open the possibility of being used as a pinch-hitter while he continued to heal. His availability off the bench on Friday was to be determined after Holliday received additional pregame treatment.
Though Holliday has now been out for more than a week, the Cardinals still want to try to avoid moving him to the disabled list. That's because a DL placement would necessitate that Holliday sit out, at minimum, seven more games.
"He was talking about being able to [run at] 80-90 percent," manager Mike Matheny said on Friday. "There is still a little more that we wanted to see, so another day should help. We want to make sure we don't go backwards."
• The Cardinals' July 31 game in Pittsburgh (6:05 p.m. CT) has been selected for ESPN's Wednesday Night Baseball telecast. That contest will be the fourth in a five-game series between the two National League Central rivals.
• Cardinals farm director John Vuch said that it is going to be at least a few more days before Oscar Taveras (right ankle sprain) appears in another game. Taveras, the Cardinals' top prospect, according to MLB.com, took one at-bat as part of a rehab assignment with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals on Monday and has not played since. He remains in Florida for his rehab.
• A strained right lat muscle will keep right-hander Tyrell Jenkins sidelined for at least another 3-4 weeks, Vuch confirmed. Jenkins, ranked by MLB.com as the organization's fifth-best prospect, will be on a conservative timetable largely because this is not the first time that he has dealt with this injury. Jenkins had been promoted to Palm Beach (Fla.) last month, but he made only three starts with the high Class A team before landing on the disabled list.
• FOX Sports Midwest's annual "This One's For You" telecast is scheduled for next Thursday during the Cardinals' home game against Philadelphia. The telecast, which will also be picked up by the American Forces Network, will feature interviews with members of the Missouri National Guard's 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion in Afghanistan. More than 300 family members of soldiers in that unit will be at the game.
FOX Sports Midwest will show select tweets -- they must include the hash tag #ThisOnesForYou and are sent to @FSMidwest or @Cardinals -- during the telecast. Some Instagram photos and videos will be shown on the Busch Stadium video board.
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.