Will St. Louis Cardinals Rotation Battle Be Affected by Miller's Shutdown?

Corey NolesCorrespondent IFebruary 20, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 3:  Starter Shelby Miller #40 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on October 3, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals insisted Wednesday morning that they weren’t concerned about the temporary sidelining of their top pitching prospect Shelby Miller, but should they be?

Maybe. The key word in that first sentence is temporary.

It was reported that Miller would miss his scheduled throwing session today due to tightness in his right shoulder. While only Wednesday and Thursday were mentioned, no timetable was given for when he would resume throwing activities.

Shoulder tightness and stiffness are quite common, especially among young pitchers early in Spring Training, but they can also become a big deal. Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia is well-versed in what shoulder inflammation can mean.

Given the Cardinals pitching rotation situation, it’s difficult not to at least be somewhat alarmed.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Cardinals had a field of eight pitchers competing for five spots. The loss of Chris Carpenter from that mix is a big hit, especially since he wasn’t actually “competing” for a spot.

Assuming what’s going on with Miller is a bump in the road ahead and not a 20-car pile-up, a few days may in fact be all he needs.

If the situation does turn out to be a bigger problem—and I’m not saying it will—then it will be an issue all around.

If the Cardinals crop of starters were trimmed from six all of the way down to eight, that would be difficult to weather and leave them few options in the event of an additional injury.

While Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly are both prime candidates, a prolonged Miller injury would certainly slim the competition down by uncomfortable proportions.

Miller still has plenty of time to get things in order to win the spot, but every day he’s not the one on the mound gives Rosenthal the spotlight.

The flame-throwing Rosenthal has been announced as the starter for the Cardinals Grapefruit League opener on Saturday and has an opportunity to show why this slot in the rotation should be his to begin with.

When Rosenthal takes the ball, people pay attention. His first showing on Saturday will be no exception.

A solid outing would go a long way towards seeing a steep rise in his stock this spring.

While I know some will panic about Miller and start hollering to sign Kyle Lohse, I still don’t think he is the answer for the Cardinals for several reasons (not the least of which is because Miller may turn out to be fine.)

The young arms (with or without Miller) need to be on the mound. It’s reached the point for them where another year in the minors could do them more harm than good.

Also, Lohse isn’t looking for a temporary home—he wants long-term stability and the one shot he may have at a big pay-day. And he should. However, that simply doesn’t work into the Cardinals plans.

While being content with what they have in the event of a problem is fine, it also carries with it a gamble. The gamble being that they would be one more injury short of a real situation.

If the Cardinals did find a reason to look outside of the organization, it’s unlikely Lohse would fit the profile of what they would be after.

Until a few days pass and we learn more about Miller’s condition (or lack thereof) it will be difficult to speculate exactly what it means to the Cardinals.

One thing is for sure, everyone would sleep better if he’s on the mound instead of in the training room.