Cubs

How Miller could offer Cubs valuable versatility in 2021

Cubs

If there’s one thing to take away from Shelby Miller’s first two spring training outings, it’s that he has the type of versatility that could be valuable for the Cubs in 2021.

On Monday, Miller — a non-roster invitee this spring — tossed an inning of relief, piggybacking off Kyle Hendricks’ start. After the first two batters reached, he worked out of trouble to deliver a scoreless frame.

On Saturday, the 30-year-old started against Milwaukee, tossing two innings of two-hit, one-run ball, striking out three. Two of those strikeouts came on the slider he's been working on this spring, getting Kolten Wong on a check swing while freezing Christian Yelich.

Miller's third strikeout came on a high fastball, which sits in the mid-90s.

“The slider’s going to be a focal point going forward,” Miller said Saturday. “It’s going to be a big pitch for us I think.”

Miller is among several pitchers in the mix for one of the Cubs’ final rotation spots this spring. But coming off the shortened 2020 season, teams will need plenty of pitching to cover the innings increase, whether that’s through multiple frames in relief or making a dozen or more starts.

Miller has done both in his career, and he's ready for any role with the Cubs this season.

Miller was an All-Star starter with Atlanta in 2015, his last full big league season before several injury-riddled years that included 2017 Tommy John surgery. In 2019 — he opted out of the 2020 season to return home and be with his newborn son — Miller started and pitched in relief with Texas.

 

“However I can help this team win is what I'll do,” said Miller, who recently noted he's 100-percent healthy, after Saturday’s outing.

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“I’m just really preparing to build up just in case that kind of opportunity presents itself, just in case I do have to lengthen up and come out of the pen or I'm starting. I'll be ready for whatever opportunity.”

Cubs manager David Ross echoed that sentiment before Saturday’s game.

“I think he can do both,” Ross said. “I think he could be a swingman. I think he could give us an inning of some real electric stuff out of the bullpen if we asked.

“Talking to him, he’s willing to do whatever to make the team and to be a part of this team. He’s had some bumps in his journey, but I feel like he’s in a really good place for us."

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