Q&A with Pop Warner on Shelby Miller

The Springfield Cardinals manager discusses The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com 2011 Pitcher of the Year.

I recently spoke with the highly-respected manager of the Double-A Springfield Cardinals, Ron "Pop" Warner, about his club's right-handed starting pitcher Shelby Miller. The Cardinals organization's top prospect was named The Cardinal Nation/Scout.com 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

This article includes additional comments from Warner not included in the main article, exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers.

Brian Walton: What about Miller as a pitcher stood out the most?

Pop Warner: What really stood out was the command of his fastball and he's got some deception. He holds onto the ball a long time. He lets it go late on the mound and then it is on guys. When you can locate at 94, 95 and you do that, you are going to be successful.

BW: When did Miller accept the need to throw his secondary offerings with regularity?

PW: It is something that we dealt with in the second half. In his last four or five starts, he started realizing ‘You know, I need to be able to throw these other pitches for strikes' because the higher up you get… You can locate your fastball and get by at our level and he did. He pretty much dominated with just his fastball. There were some games where he had some hiccups where he needed those other pitches and he didn't have them. Thus, some long innings and he didn't make it too far in the game. He understood the value of that just by trial and error.

BW: Were there other pressures?

PW: In his defense, he is trying to win games for the team. We were in it there kind of towards the end (of the season) until we kind of fell off and the winning kind of got mixed up with him personally. It is all about developing him for the major leagues. We want to win, but we want to help him reach St. Louis.

BW: Was there a firm requirement placed on Miller as to the number of secondary pitches he needed to throw?

PW: It got to the point where I finally said, ‘Enough is enough. I understand what you are doing, but you are just going to go out there and use all your pitches.' I didn't put a number on how many pitches he was going to throw as far as the ratio with his breaking ball and his changeup but he threw enough that the organization was happy there toward the end.

BW: Did you consider calling his pitches for him?

PW: The catcher calls the game, but the pitcher has the last say-so. We actually thought about that a little bit, but we didn't want to go to that extreme a measure to call his pitches to make him throw them (more secondary pitches). We just told him, ‘Here is what you need to do.' He agreed and the rest is history. He is going to be a pretty good one.

BW: What are you looking for in his breaking ball and changeup?

PW: I will tell you, Brian, like I said, his breaking ball has the makings being a plus-plus pitch for him in the major leagues and if his changeup ever comes around… He throws his changeup with good off-speed. I just think he needs to find a way to manipulate it with his hand or grip to take a little more off of it. And if he can figure that out… He is going to be special as it is, but that changeup could be a real weapon for him.

BW: Do you think Shelby will open 2012 with Memphis?

PW: His assignment next season will depend on the numbers we are going to have at Triple-A. I think maturity-wise, he grew up a lot. With the little incident he had, he grew up real fast. He could pitch in Triple-A next year. It will depend on whether the organization wants to take it slowly or push him a little bit.

BW: What is your non-binding opinion?

PW: Me personally, I think he could go there and pitch. He's got that special pitch, the fastball that he commands and that is going to make him compete no matter where he is at. He could go to the big leagues and compete with that. There would be games where he could be successful, but throughout the course of a major league season, he would need to have all of his pitches working for him.

Note: Link to article with links to all articles about previous award winners across the system club by club, schedule for upcoming announcements as well as 2011 team recaps, much of it exclusively for The Cardinal Nation subscribers. Not yet a subscriber? Join now!

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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