After a rough introduction to the Pacific Coast League, Shelby Miller knew that if he wanted to trust his stuff again, he had to trust those around him first.
Since he's done that, he sounds like the same pitcher MLB.com declared baseball's No. 2 prospect.
The Cardinals' top farmhand recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts and allowed three runs on seven hits over 5 2/3 innings Saturday in Triple-A Memphis' 7-5 win over Tacoma.
Miller (8-9) has won three straight starts and four of his last five after going 1-6 in 13 starts from May 5-July 14. And with 26 strikeouts during his winning streak, he's equaled his total for the previous six outings.
Put another way, the 21-year-old right-hander was 4-8 with a 6.17 ERA before the Triple-A All-Star break. In five games since, he's 4-1 with a 3.12 ERA. But he's not allowing himself to take all the credit for the turnaround.
"A lot of that goes to my catcher [Bryan Anderson], especially in pitch selection," said Miller, the 19th overall pick in the 2009 Draft. "I was really stubborn early with my fastball. It's all I wanted to throw, but it ended up inside a lot. These guys were hitting it pretty well. But ever since, we've grown some chemistry in our first year together and I've followed him a little. It's going great and, hopefully, we can keep it going."
That trust was almost forced upon Miller, however. The Cardinals organization imposed a new rule around the All-Star break, prohibiting him from shaking off the pitches for which his backstop called.
The Houston native begrudgingly accepted the assignment at first, but he's warmed to the idea.
"I just thought, 'Ah, all right, I guess,'" Miller said. "But then I was thinking if I make the Majors, Yadier Molina's going to be my catcher, and that's someone you're definitely not going to shake off. Plus, Anderson's someone I should trust anyways. He's been in this league for a few years.
"I've just been going with what he's called and it's gotten a lot better. This stretch has reminded me why I love baseball again. Things couldn't be better right now."
As it goes, there's no better time than the present, and the Cardinals undoubtedly are glad to see their top prospect return to the form that earned him the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year award each of the last two seasons.
But Miller noted there's something a little extra in improving at this point in the season.
"Everyone knows you're going to struggle at some point," he said. "No All-Star starter isn't going to have a time when he goes 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. Roy Halladay -- one of the best pitchers in the game -- gives up a lot of runs every now and again. But bouncing back is the main thing. Ending the season strong is big, and I'm hoping to do that here."
The second-half improvement might even catch the eye of the Cardinals' front office. And while Miller isn't expecting to be among St. Louis' September callups, he'll have his phone handy, just in case.
"I'd rather have good second-half numbers than first-half numbers," he said. "Hopefully, they give me an opportunity because of that. I love this organization and everyone in it. It'd be a dream come true to pitch for them this season. I just can hope I finish well enough to get that call."
Luis Montanez went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs, while Anderson supported his batterymate with a solo homer.
Rainiers designated hitter Luis Antonio Jimenez homered and drove in four runs as part of a 3-for-4 night.