ST. LOUIS — His eyes affixed in a faraway stare, veins bulging in his arms and neck and sweat dripping from his sleeveless shirt, Cardinals’ pitcher Miles Mikolas works especially hard on his off-days so that he doesn’t have to on the days when he pitches.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Mikolas already cuts quite an imposing figure, but his stature is even more daunting and intimidating on those days following starts when he opts for grueling sweat sessions in the weight room. Whereas some pitchers use the day after starts for rest and recovery — See: Adam Wainwright’s “Day After Pitching Old Man Walk” –Mikolas figures that day is the farthest away from his next start and it’s a time when he needs to make sure he stays strong throughout baseball’s marathon-like season. And, oh yeah, mix in a little vanity, too.
“I like to hit the weights pretty hard, and that’s kind of a personal thing, and I like to look good in my suits,” Mikolas said in his usually good-natured way. “When I dress up, I think a touch of vanity can go a long way sometimes.
“But that’s my day to blow it out physically,” he added. “As taxing as [a day when he starts] is, I guess it’s like a 36-hour window I have once I’m done pitching to really put my body through as much as it can handle. Then, I get my rest and get a massage.”
Mikolas has been strong all season for the Cardinals while compiling the fourth-best ERA in MLB at 1.45. His 3-1 record could be significantly better had the team not struggled to score runs. During a stretch where he dueled with Mets ace Max Scherzer and D-backs rising star Merritt Kelly, Mikolas recorded the longest scoreless streak in baseball this season (19 innings). Fully healthy for the first time in four years, Mikolas been so good that there are comparisons to 2018 when he was 18-4 and an NL All-Star.
What the Cardinals are seeing, manager Oliver Marmol said, is “the best version of Miles Mikolas.” The Jupiter, Fla., native concurs.
“I would think the best version of myself is quick outs, lots of strikes and down in the zone,” Mikolas said. “Strikeouts are super sexy, but that’s not really what I’m known for. I can get a few of them when I really need one. I would say when I’m pitching like I’m supposed to, that’s a fair assessment of me.
“Just being physically strong and healthy gives me the ability to throw all my pitches,” he added. “I worked hard this winter being able to throw that hard breaking ball — with hard and late movement — because it got a little loopy in 2019. That was a big indication [I was set up for success] because that’s a big pitch for me.”