JUPITER, Fla. — Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller are roommates and best friends, and come November they will serve as best man at each other’s wedding just seven days a part.
These days, though, they are competing for the Cardinals’ fifth starter spot. The loser will end up in the bullpen or back at Triple-A Memphis.
Kelly allowed three hits and one run in four solid innings and Miller allowed three runs in 2 2-3 innings Thursday in St. Louis’ 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves.
With the Cardinals wanting the three remaining spring training starts to go to the No. 5 starter, Thursday was likely the final opportunity for the candidates to show why they deserve the spot.
“Oh definitely, if he gets the fifth spot I’m not going to talk to him anymore,” Miller said. “I’m kidding. It’s not going to change anything. I’ll be happy for him, but I’m sure if I got it he’ll be just as happy for me.”
Kelly has allowed just five hits and two earned runs in eight innings over three starts.
The former third-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2009 got two double plays in his four innings and the only damage came on a two-out single from Braves leadoff man Jordan Schafer in the third that scored Jordan Parraz.
Miller allowed six hits and three runs but two of them scored after he departed the game.
“Joe came out and I thought that was probably the best he’s been this spring,” said manager Mike Matheny. “Shelby threw the ball pretty well, as well. It was a good day.
“Today wasn’t a drop dead, have to make a decision day, but we just took in more information and gave them another opportunity to go out there and I thought they both did the most with it,” Matheny added.
Mike Minor allowed six hits and four runs in five innings for the Braves and retired 12 of the first 14 hitters he faced. But he tired in the fifth inning as the Cardinals batted around and scored four runs on five hits off the lefty.
“We’ve got to get him through those innings to build up pitch count and that kind of stuff,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “Other than that, he did a lot of good things. He helped himself with a bunt, drove a guy in. He did a lot of good stuff.”