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Miller dealt Cardinals a winning hand as rookie

National League ROY finalist notched 15 wins to help St. Louis take NL Central title

ST. LOUIS -- Considered a can't-miss pitching prospect from the time the Cardinals made him their first-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Shelby Miller emerged a standout rookie starter during his first full season in the Majors.

A season that began with Miller earning the final spot in the Cards' rotation ended with him frustrated by his postseason role as a little-used long reliever. In between, however, his 15-win season earned him national recognition, highlighted by Tuesday's announcement that Miller is one of three finalists for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

Marlins righty Jose Fernandez and Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig are also finalists for the honor, with the winner set to be announced on Monday.

Puig electrified the Dodgers and helped to save their season. Fernandez thrived on an otherwise underwhelming Miami club. The only one of the three, however, to play an entire uninterrupted season in the Majors in 2013 was Miller.

Miller, who turned 23 in October, led all rookies with 15 wins, a total that only five NL pitchers with any amount of service time surpassed. One was Miller's teammate, Adam Wainwright, a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award.

Miller started 31 games, the most by a Cardinals rookie since Rick Ankiel started 30 in 2000, and Miller's 3.06 ERA was 10th best in the NL and fourth best among Major League rookies. He ranked third among rookies in strikeouts (169) and fourth in innings pitched (173 1/3).

Only two pitchers in franchise history (Ankiel and Dizzy Dean) had more strikeouts in their rookie season than did Miller, who held opponents to a .234 batting average -- the 13th-lowest average among all NL starters.

"To me, he's a top-of-the-rotation style pitcher," Cards manager Mike Matheny said of Miller, days after the season ended. "When you look at all that he's accomplished, we also lose sight of the fact that this was his first full season. That was a month-plus longer than he's ever competed in his life, and in tough circumstances. It's a huge step forward."

Should Miller be voted the NL Rookie of the Year, he would become the seventh Cardinals player to win this particular Baseball Writers' Association of America award. The only St. Louis recipient since 1986 was Albert Pujols, the 2001 honoree.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.

St. Louis Cardinals, Shelby Miller