Outlook: Miller is primed for strong sophomore season

JUPITER, Fla. -- Two years ago, Shelby Miller reported to camp noticeably trimmer, the loss in weight a byproduct of a misdirected offseason conditioning program. He corrected his training the following offseason and rode that to a spot in the Cardinals' rotation.

Now, he's looking to pack on a few more pounds.

Intent on building his body so that it can handle the workload of a 200-inning pitcher, Miller is trying to add some weight during Spring Training. He'll do so in a healthy manner, of course, with the end goal being increased durability.

"I want to get stronger, be able to pitch more innings, keep that bullpen out of the game as much as possible and be more efficient," Miller said. "I feel like if I'm heavier and more durable, I think that will make it easier and I will perform better."

In the months leading up to camp, Miller followed the same workout regimen he did the previous winter. He saw no reason to make tweaks to that program given the success he had last season. On the heels of that offseason work, Miller came out ahead in the battle for the final starting job and went on to be a finalist for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Don't let his non-usage in October overshadow the strong season Miller had for the Cardinals in 2013, either. He went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts, striking out 169 and walking 57. Miller logged 173 1/3 regular-season innings and then one more in the postseason. It was a step up from pitching 150 2/3 innings a year prior between Triple-A and the big leagues.

The new benchmark in his sights now is 200. Only two Cardinals pitchers (Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn) reached that figure last season.

"I think I am ready for it," Miller said. "I was only 25 innings away last year. I think I got it."

Cards not shying away from Bourjos' aggressive play

Outlook: Bourjos can be relied on for runs, steals

JUPITER, Fla. -- Ask Peter Bourjos about his aggressive play and you might be surprised to learn that the first facet of the game he brings up isn't his defense. Nor is it his baserunning. Rather, Bourjos chooses to talk hitting.

Indeed, aggressiveness can be used to define several aspects of the new speedy center fielder's game. His aggressive approach at the plate accounts for why Bourjos has averaged a walk only once in every 18 plate appearances and has a career on-base percentage of .306. He does not apologize for the philosophy because he has found it is the one that works best for him as a hitter.

Where Bourjos' aggressiveness could be most magnified, though, is in the field. At last month's Winter Warm-Up, general manager John Mozeliak suggested that Bourjos likely needs to harness some of that aggressiveness in order to decrease injury risk.

"You want your players to be aggressive and you want them to do things that become highlight reels for ESPN," Mozeliak said. "But having said that, you still want him to go every day."

Manager Mike Matheny said on Saturday, however, that he will send no such direct message, unless, of course, aggressiveness were to morph into recklessness.

"I'm not sure I ever want to ask somebody not to play their hardest," Matheny explained. "I think when you start asking a guy not to be as aggressive as he can or to try and take away from what he knows is right or what he believes is right, you may be setting him up even more for injury. ... I think a controlled aggressiveness in the field, too, is part of what makes him as good as he is. I'm not going to make a strong statement to him on that regard. ... He's been playing the game hard, and that's not something we want to take from him."

Nor does Bourjos intend to change his style of play.

"I want to take away as many hits as I can, cut them off, keep them to singles," Bourjos said. "Whether it's running into the wall or making a diving play, I want to do that. I really have fun out there playing center."

Bourjos comes to camp competing for center field playing time with incumbent Jon Jay. He also arrives healthy. The rehab work that followed September wrist surgery wrapped up this winter, and Bourjos has been swinging a bat uninhibited since the end of December.

Usually not an early arrival at Spring Training, Bourjos said he was deliberate in relocating to Florida a few days before his required report date so that he could acclimate himself with the area and his new teammates. That process has been seamless.

"There is always an anxiety coming into a new place because you don't know anybody," Bourjos said. "But right when I walked in, guys came up and introduced themselves. You could see they generally want each other to do well, and that's pretty cool to see. ... I just want to win, and hopefully we're holding up that trophy at the end of the season."

Worth noting

Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay arrived at Cardinals camp on Saturday to participate in their first workout of the spring. The only member of the 40-man roster not yet to arrive is veteran Mark Ellis, who is scheduled in on Sunday. Position players are not required to report until Monday.

Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals' first-round pick from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, was among 13 Cardinals pitchers to take the mound on Saturday. Gonzales is not competing for an immediate spot on the big league roster, but he is trying to leave an impression, as Michael Wacha (also a No. 19 overall Draft pick) did a year ago.

"We haven't even gone that far in terms of what his long-term projection is for the season and how we watch him," manager Mike Matheny said of Gonzales. "But I think so far we're seeing the benefits of a great plan put together by [GM John Mozeliak] and the development staff, just to make sure that the heavy load he carried through college and his first full season is something that they took special notice of."

• After several mornings of having ping-pong fill the morning downtime in the clubhouse, attention turned to hockey on Saturday. Players put down the paddles, and several watched the US face Russia in an Olympic meeting. However, they missed the finish, as the Cardinals were already on the field for workouts by the time St. Louis Blues player T.J. Oshie had his moment in the spotlight.

Rob Johnson, who served as a backup catcher with the Cardinals during the second half of last season, has resurfaced with the Padres ... and he is coming back as a pitcher. Johnson, who was removed from the Cardinals' roster in November, did take the mound for St. Louis once last season. He struck out the only batter he faced in a 13-4 loss to the Dodgers.