Cubs' Shelby Miller making case for spot in Opening Day rotation

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Tim Stebbins
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Miller making case for spot in Cubs' Opening Day rotation originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

A week before Opening Day, Cubs manager David Ross isn't willing to name his full starting rotation. Why?

Shelby Miller.

Ross on Thursday was asked about the club’s rotation plans for the beginning of the season. He only went as far to say Jake Arrieta and Zach Davies would start Games 2-3, behind No. 1 starter Kyle Hendricks, which suggests Miller is still in the mix for a spot.

Trevor Williams and Alec Mills have been in line for the Nos. 4-5 spots all spring, but Miller, a non-roster invitee, has positioned himself to be strongly considered for a starting job. In six games (one start) this spring, he’s allowed a single earned run, striking out 12 in nine innings.

Miller was an All-Star starter with Atlanta in 2015, his last full season before being sidetracked by injuries — including Tommy John surgery that limited him to nine starts from 2017-18. But the 30-year-old entered camp this spring and said he's 100 percent healthy, and the results reflect that.

Most intriguing, Miller has the mid-to-upper-90s fastball velocity that the Cubs' command-control rotation lacks, paired with a sharp slider and curveball. He also has valuable versatility and has expressed his willingness to pitch in any role throughout camp.

"He can be some starting depth and a guy in the bullpen that can give an inning and bring some real velocity or give you two or three," Ross said Sunday. 

"There’s a lot of roles there for him."

Whether it's one role or the other, it might be Miller Time on the North Side.

"He's had a phenomenal spring and really pitched well for us and opened a lot of eyes around here," Ross added Sunday. "What we thought he could be is exactly what he's turning into. 

"We're really excited about the versatility of Shelby Miller."

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