MONTREAL -- The last time Miles Mikolas pitched in the Majors, then-Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux helped send him on a path that has come full circle.
After spending the past three years in Japan, Mikolas is set to start the season in the Cardinals' rotation, with Maddux as his pitching coach.
"I really like their philosophy and everything they're all about here," Mikolas said after the Cardinals' 1-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Tuesday. "I think they scouted me pretty heavily over there, you know, they've got some great scouts over there. They're there every year and they're watching other guys, and Spring Training in my hometown, coaches I'm familiar with, great support staff, great players, great team. They kind of checked off all the boxes."
Now 29, the Jupiter, Fla., native went 2-5 with a 6.44 ERA with Texas in 2014.
"The time we spent in Texas was brief, you know, maybe two months," Maddux said. "And just the evolution I saw in those two months, he threw a lot, it was really big overall in mechanics, how to throw the baseball, and that was really what we worked on. In his last start for the Rangers he went eight shutout, so we were getting on the right track.
"And then he went to Japan and continued to do what we worked on and he really found his niche. I think he grew up, got married, a little responsibility, has a child -- that'll make you grow quickly and I think that's what Miles has done. He's grown as a man and as a person and he's carried that onto the baseball field."
Mikolas went 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA in 62 starts with the Yomiuri Giants from 2015-17.
"They know each other, but his stuff is different," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Maddux would be the first one to say that, it's not the same stuff as when he was in Texas. It's new and improved."
Mikolas credited his time in Japan as an opportunity to improve his game.
"Just putting in the work and really being kind of isolated over there allowed me to just really focus on my craft and work on a lot of things with my pitching," Mikolas said. "My breaking balls, my timing, my delivery, just a lot of time to get comfortable as a starter, and I think that's begun to translate pretty well over here."
Mikolas was 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA in five starts this spring before his final outing Tuesday, when he struck out six and allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, lowering his spring ERA to 4.76.
"Every start he's been better for us this spring," Matheny said. "You can't deny the success that he had in Japan, and I'm hoping that he just stays with his strengths because this isn't Japan. But hitters are hitters, and he was able to get some good hitters out over there and we know that that plays here. So he's got to trust himself and just keep making pitches. I'm kind of excited to watch how he can make that transition over here, but the stuff looks good."
"I'd like for him to continue to do what he's done this Spring Training, and that's identify where his outs are," Maddux said. "As long as we know how to get outs, then we formulate the game plan and we carry it out and good things should happen if we execute."