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Cards extend Mikolas through 2023

Wainwright on right-hander: 'He’s just all you can ask for from a teammate'
@LangoschMLB
February 26, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- A detour through Japan and a season spent proving he belonged in the Majors both led Miles Mikolas back to the spot where his big league dreams first began. Once a kid living down the road from the Cardinals’ spring complex, Mikolas sat inside it on Tuesday,

JUPITER, Fla. -- A detour through Japan and a season spent proving he belonged in the Majors both led Miles Mikolas back to the spot where his big league dreams first began.

Once a kid living down the road from the Cardinals’ spring complex, Mikolas sat inside it on Tuesday, unveiled as the latest player to agree to a long-term deal with the organization. Three days after signing Jose Martinez to an extension, the Cards finalized a four-year extension for Mikolas that will run through the 2023 season.

“We spent a lot of time this offseason talking about 2019, and as we started to get closer to Spring Training, we also wanted to start thinking about our future,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “When you combine his skill with his leadership and really his ability to help mentor young players, it just seemed like as we look to the future, he was that natural person to take that next step to carry that for the St. Louis Cardinals.”

The four-year contract, worth $68 million, will begin after Mikolas’ current two-year deal for $15.5 million expires in the fall. The deal, a source confirmed to MLB.com, includes full no-trade protection and an escalator clause that could add $2 million in total value if Mikolas throws 200 innings this season.

Having Mikolas under contract for the next five seasons infuses some certainty as the Cards forecast their long-term rotation plans. Michael Wacha seems likely to depart as a free agent after this season, and Adam Wainwright, now 37, is going year-to-year with his career.

That will leave Mikolas to anchor a rotation of 20-something-year-old pitchers like Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty and Alex Reyes.

“He’s a perfect teammate,” Wainwright said of the 30-year-old Mikolas. “He fits in so well with our team. His mentality is perfect for starting pitching, perfect for the grind of an entire long season. He keeps things light in the clubhouse. Very focused on the mound. He’s just all you can ask for from a teammate.”

Mikolas was quite impressive on the field, too. In 2018, he returned to the Majors following a three-year stint pitching in Japan and turned out to be one of the best finds of the offseason. Mikolas finished sixth in the National League Cy Young Award voting after leading the league with an .818 winning percentage and ranking fourth with an ERA of 2.83.

Mikolas boasted the Majors’ highest strike rate (69.3 percent), according to Statcast, and became the third pitcher in Major League history to win 10 games on the road without suffering a loss. (Hall of Famer Greg Maddux went 13-0 on the road for Atlanta in 1995, a year after Jimmy Key went 10-0 for the Yankees.)

Along the way, Mikolas earned an All-Star invite that he had to decline to race home for the premature birth of twins, Miles Jr. and Madelyn. For the next month, his wife, Lauren, sat alongside the babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.

On Tuesday, Lauren entertained, rocked and distracted the twins, along with their 2-year-old big sister, behind a lineup of cameras as Mikolas spoke about the sequence of life-changing events he’s experienced since reporting to Spring Training as a first-time Cardinal a year ago.

“It’s been busy, but it’s been a blast,” Mikolas said. “Getting to play for a team that I came up going to these Spring Training games and playing in front of some of my friends and family at home, then adding to my family. Sometimes I have to take a minute and take a breath -- it’s usually once everyone is asleep once I get an extra minute -- and look back over everything that has happened. I’m super grateful for how I’ve been blessed.”

The details of this deal came together rather quickly, Mozeliak noted, once Mikolas expressed interest in working toward an extension ahead of becoming a free agent at the end of the season. Exploratory discussions began in the offseason, and both sides were optimistic that an agreement would be reached before Spring Training concluded.

It was, three days after the Cardinals officially named Mikolas their Opening Day starter.

“To see Miles pitch brings a smile to my face every fifth day because you know what you’re going to get,” manager Mike Shildt said. “[He’s] really diligent about how he takes care of his body, how he trains, how he prepares to go into that start to compete. And then he has the weapons to be able to do it. Couldn’t be more excited for him and more excited for our team moving forward. You talk about anchor, I couldn’t imagine a better anchor moving forward than Miles Mikolas.”

Jenifer Langosch is a senior content manager at MLB.com. She previously covered the Pirates (2007-11) and Cardinals (2012-19). Follow her on Twitter.