Shelby Miller, currently pitching for the Memphis Redbirds (AAA, Pacific Coast League), recently joined Redbird Rants for an interview. Miller is the #1 prospect in the Cardinals organization this season.
Daniel Solzman: Shelby, thanks for joining Redbird Rants today. How are things going in Memphis?
Shelby Miller: It’s going good. It’s really not the best season so far by everything is good.
Daniel Solzman: How does it feel to be named the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year for two years in a row?
Shelby Miller: It’s hard to explain. There’s so many good guys in the organization where other people could have won. I had a really great season last year. It’s an honor for the whole organization. Then to get it two years in a row. It’s great. It’s an accomplishment and honor for me. I move on to the next one and then focus on this season for now. For the time being and what it was, it’s awesome.
Daniel Solzman: What’s a typical day like on days when you are scheduled to pitch?
Shelby Miller: You show up to the field about 3-4 hours before the game. Guys hang out until game time. It’s pretty simple. I’m sure a lot of people are the same: listening to music, get a good meal in, try and get mentally prepared and focused on the game. If not, just try and pitch to the best of your abilities.
Daniel Solzman: And during the rest of the week?
Shelby Miller: During the rest of the week, it’s just focus on recovering and working out. Getting all that good stuff in and work in the bullpen. Just try and get ready for the next time. A lot of people are the same. We don’t have the same schedule. Focus on staying healthy and prepare for the next time really.
Daniel Solzman: Flashing back to 2009 when you were graduating from Brownwood High School, when did you have an idea that you could be drafted in the first round and once you were, how long did you decide between forgoing your college career at Texas A & M and playing professional baseball for the Cardinals?
Shelby Miller: Pretty much, I knew I was going to get drafted but by my senior year, I actually got offers. I signed with A&M before senior year. I had a good chance to play professional baseball and I still lived the high school life. I played football my senior year even though I knew I was going to get drafted. I really didn’t change anything up….Once it finally happened, it was pretty much a no brainer that I was going to sign since it was the situation I was in, being drafted in the first round…In the long run, I got offered a scholarship to a great baseball school. If I would have gone to college, I would have been in the College World Series last year. This would have been my draft year—I’m already in AAA so I think it was a good decision to make so far
Daniel Solzman: Does being a first round draft pick and the #1 prospect in the organization come with added pressure to not only do well but get to the big leagues faster?
Shelby Miller: Not really. I mean usually the first round guys and the #1 prospects are usually considered ready more and not so rushed. It seems like it’s been different me. This is my third year and I’m in AAA in not a lot of time. It’s about half and half in the high minors and low minors, and not everybody works like that. A lot of people are exploring with their guys I’m fortunate to get the opportunity to get through the system. It’s a great opportunity for me to be here learning a lot at the AAA level. It’s definitely more of a bigger feel to the big leagues than in AA or any other level. It’s pretty much the real deal. It’s a lot of fun.
Daniel Solzman: Speaking of which, you could have played along side Michael Wacha for the Aggies and it’s likely that you both could be pitching in the same rotation within the next few seasons. Any thoughts on that? What kind of pitcher are the Cardinals getting in Wacha?
Shelby Miller: I haven’t really seen him pitch. I know for a fact that he’s really good. I know that his numbers and where he got drafted in the first round really speaks for itself. To be honest, I don’t know exactly what he has but he’s probably compared to me as far as what he has, like fastball and body build. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of expectations to his professional career. I think that, in the long run, he’s going to be a big league pitcher some day. It’s all about how he adapts to the professional system. Throwing every day and stuff like that. As far as how he’s going to pitch, I haven’t really seen him pitch. I know that he’s good and the Cardinals made a really good choice in him.
Daniel Solzman: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Shelby Miller: My favorite player was Jeff Bagwell of the Astros.
Daniel Solzman: You were named to two All Star Futures games. What was that whole experience like? What did it mean to you in that you were able to represent the USA two years in a row?
Shelby Miller: It was a lot of fun. I mean it’s a great experience for the time being. A high percentage of the guys that go there are playing in the big leagues and that’s awesome. A lot of the guys that I have played with on the team, who are older than me in my first year, are in the big leagues right now. Even last year, playing with guys like Mike Trout, Tim Beckham, and a lot of others guys, but I was with them and I played with them. It was a great experience. It was the best of the best together. If I can do it again this year…if not, no worries. It’s a great experience and a lot of fun. Definitely great competition.
Daniel Solzman: What does The Cardinal Way mean to you?
Shelby Miller: Pretty much, it’s blue collar. You can look at the team and the history. Everything that’s been a part of the page…The best to work with, the best to follow, the best to watch. The guys that are in the big leagues now are great. That pretty much speaks for itself. It’s the best baseball there is. St. Louis is the best city with a baseball product. I can’t wait to get to the big leagues. I’ve seen one of my good friends go up there—a guy like Joe Kelly…it’s so surreal and it’s so cool. It’s amazing to see it happen. You put the time and all the hard work. Everything is going to fall into place. I think that the Cardinal Way is doing it the right way. Cardinal Baseball…all that history to what we have now is just pretty much amazing. I’ve been in a really good situation.
Daniel Solzman: Is it nice having Pop Warner as a manager for a second season in a row?
Shelby Miller: It’s fun. Pop’s a good guy. You learn something about each other every single day. He’s played professional baseball. He knows what’s going on. He knows how to go about the game. He’s taught me a lot of things and things to do. It’s fun. As a manager—hopefully, he’ll get to coach in the big leagues one of these days in St. Louis, and I get there, too. But right now, we’re both in AAA and we’re both enjoying it, trying to win games. He wants to win more than some of the guys here. He’s got a great feel for the game. He knows what he’s doing so its fun to be with for a second season. Like I said, you learn something every single day. He’s a good person to go to if you’ve got questions about something. He’s a fun guy.
Daniel Solzman: What about pitching coach Blaise Ilsley? How has he helped with your mechanics this season with the adjustment to AAA this season?
Shelby Miller: Blaise is the man. He really hasn’t messed with my things. He just tries to—it’s funny, he has some of the best scouting reports on hitters and I don’t how long I’ve been here but I’ve learned a lot. Mostly little things—how to attack hitters and what to do. The big thing with me is I haven’t been listening to some of the advice he’s given me. Like Monday night, for example, first home run I gave up in the game was a 2-0 fastball and I threw it high and inside. One of the scouting reports said straight hitter…and I threw a fastball inside. That’s a lesson in how Blaise knows what he’s doing and last night is a proven example of why I should look through them 100%. He knows what is doing and he’s a great pitching coach…We’re both trying to work it out. He’s great.
Daniel Solzman: Keith Law recently wrote on ESPN that “One comment I’ve heard on Miller this season is that he might just be bored.” What do you say in response to allegations like that?
Shelby Miller: I’m not bored. I’m not bored at all. It’s baseball. I’m having a lot of fun. You can look at my numbers and you can see how my season is going. It’s not even close to how it should be. It’s unbelievable how I can throw three shutout innings and then give up 4 runs in one inning in 15 minutes. It’s just pretty much a game change for me this year. To give up big innings. I’ve been throwing shut out innings and give up 3-run, 2-run, 4-run innings, It’s just what’s killing me. It’s killing my pitch count and how my fastball looks. My ERA might not be good and it’s not. But if you’ve looked at the home runs I’ve given up this year compared to the past years, it speaks for itself. I’ve given up the long ball—that’s it. It’s only been few things this year…I’m just getting hit hard but I’m not bored. I want to be here and I want to pitch here. In the long term, I want to be in St. Louis. AAA is really an eye opener. I’m trying really hard…and have a lot of fun with it.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining us and hope to see you pitching for the Cards here in the next few months this season. Any final words for the best fans in baseball?
Shelby Miller: Keep being the best!