Miller hit two batters and also issued a walk before being pulled after recording just two outs Thursday. This marks the third time this spring that Miller has failed to complete an inning of work. As a result, he has a bloated 11.81 ERA and 1.88 WHIP across 5.1 innings. Given his track record and previous slow spring starts, there is no need for full-blown panic.
Miller sports a 13.50 ERA across 4.2 spring innings as a result of allowing seven earned runs on five hits and four walks. The veteran has also recorded seven strikeouts, so he's missed some bats along the way as well. Despite his unsightly spring line, Miller naturally brings a well-established track record built up over the last seven seasons in particular. Consequently, the 33-year-old projects as the left-handed side of a closer tandem with phenom Jordan Hicks, with his the exact workload between the two likely to fluctuate as the season unfolds. Miller's one dominant season as a ninth-inning option came in 2015 with the Yankees, when he converted 36 of 38 save opportunities while posting a 2.04 ERA and 0.86 WHIP over 60 appearances.
Miller will be eased into spring training games to protect his previously injured knee, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The southpaw hit the disabled list twice last season due to knee injuries, so the Cardinals are playing things safe with their big free agent acquisition. Miller isn't expected to appear in the first few spring games, but the team also isn't setting an exact date for his debut given his veteran status. Miller is fully healthy as things stand now, and barring any extraneous circumstances, he will be full-go by the time Opening Day rolls around.
The Cardinals won't name Miller or anyone else their closer heading into the season, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports. Miller has 53 career saves to his name, but his time in Cleveland made him synonymous with the idea that a team's best reliever need not always pitch the ninth inning. It's not clear that he fits that description in St. Louis at this point in his career, as a series of injuries limited him to 34 innings and a 4.24 ERA in 2018. The Cardinals also have second-year pitcher Jordan Hicks, who owns a 100.5 mph fastball but a mysteriously mediocre 20.7 percent strikeout rate. Manager Mike Shildt is likely to play the matchups, with Miller facing lefties and Hicks facing righties, preventing either player from recording a high save total.
Miller has agreed to a two-year deal with the Cardinals that includes a vesting option for a third year, Jon Heyman of FancredSports.com reports. The financials are not yet known, but this deal is done. This is an ideal landing spot for Miller from a fantasy perspective, as the Cardinals did not have an established option in the ninth inning. That does not mean that Miller will get the save opportunities in St. Louis, but he will enter spring training with a chance to break camp as the closer, or one of the options to close games. Hamstring, knee and shoulder woes limited the southpaw to 34 innings in 2018. He struggled with his control (10.4 percent walk rate), but still missed bats at a high clip (29.2 percent strikeout rate). Jordan Hicks is the top right-handed option for saves, and Alex Reyes could also emerge as a contender for those opportunities if the Cardinals opt to deploy him out of the bullpen.