St. Louis Cardinals: Miles Mikolas shows best stuff in final rehab start

Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a photo on Photo Day at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Miles Mikolas #39 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses for a photo on Photo Day at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on February 19, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

In what will likely be his final rehab start, St. Louis Cardinals’ starter Miles Mikolas hurled his best rehab start yet.

The St. Louis Cardinals are starting to show signs of stress on their pitching. A rough start to the year forced the bullpen to shoulder a heavier load, and now the entire staff is having a walks problem.

It doesn’t help that two-fifths of the starting rotation planned for Opening Day is on the IL. While things have looked a little rough in the first two games of the Padres series, both Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas could return soon.

For Mikolas, he has been at AAA Memphis making rehab starts and should return to the team sometime this week. In his first rehab start, Mikolas went just 2.1 innings, throwing 57 pitches and giving up two runs. In his second start, things looked a little better as the righty gave up three runs in four innings (69 pitches) but his fastball velocity and control looked better.

On Sunday, Mikolas faced off against the Brewers’ AAA team that included the rehabbing Christian Yelich as well as Keston Hiura and Dee Strange-Gordon. Despite a little trouble in the first, this was by far the best Mikolas has looked at Memphis. Like his second start, his fastball sat between 91-93 mph, but the bigger difference in my eyes from this start was Mikolas’ ability to throw his offspeed pitches for strikes.

In his previous starts, too many of his sliders and curveballs were non-factors. Out of the hand, they were clearly balls and it got Mikolas into trouble with his pitch count. At the end of his start on Sunday, Mikolas threw 6.0 innings, giving up just four hits and striking out three. He got lucky on a couple of pitches he left up, but long flyouts are still outs whether you’re at AAA or the MLB. Mikolas exited throwing 80 pitches (57 strikes) and walked just one opposing batter without giving up a run.

At the very end of his start, Mikolas’ fastball velocity dipped down to around 87-88 mph which may mean he’s not quite ready to approach the 100 pitch mark, but nobody can argue with Mikolas’ effectiveness on Sunday.

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Adding to the fun of the AAA game, Mikolas cranked a curveball out of the park in the 6th. Mikolas won’t be relied on for his batting in St. Louis, but it certainly won’t hurt.

With this final rehab start, Mikolas would be good to start again on Friday in the first game of the Cubs series should the Cardinals want to activate Mikolas then. The Cardinals have two days off this week with Pittsburgh coming to St. Louis for a two-game series in the middle of the week. John Gant and Jack Flaherty are scheduled for those two games.

While it would technically be Johan Oviedo’s turn in the rotation (I guess?), it would make a lot of sense to start Mikolas or Adam Wainwright on Friday. The Cardinals might want to go with Wainwright on six days of rest and start Mikolas Saturday, but there is no sense in worrying about it right now.

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The Cardinals’ rotation could use a shot in the arm and a healthy Mikolas could be just that. We’ll find out later this week when he’ll return, but he looked ready to return to the big leagues in his final rehab start.