Cardinals name Mikolas opening-day starter, also sign him to two-year contract extension

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. – Miles Mikolas picked up a pair of victories on Friday even before throwing the first pitch of the Cardinals’ game against the Nationals.

Mikolas was named the starting pitcher for Thursday’s season-opener at Busch Stadium against the Blue Jays while the Cardinals also announced that they had reached agreement with Mikolas on a two-year contract extension running through the 2025 season.

Mikolas had been scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this year but had often expressed his interest in working out a new deal to remain in St. Louis.

“If someone wants to be here, we try to make that happen,” said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, at Friday’s press conference.

Mikolas grew up in Jupiter and speaks fondly of getting out of school early to attend Cardinals’ spring training games. He has been with the Cardinals since 2018, signing as a free agent after pitching in Japan.

“The timing is ideal and we’re glad we can do this before we got to opening day,” Mozeliak said.

Financial terms of the extension were not released but ESPN reported the deal was worth $40 million.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a Cardinal for a couple more years,” Mikolas said. “Jupiter is my home. St. Louis has also become my home away from home … I couldn’t imagine trying to win a World Series anywhere else.”

The Cardinals had planned to start Adam Wainwright, who has said he will retire at the end of this season, on opening day before he suffered a groin injury that will put him on the injured list. This will be the second opening day start in Mikolas’ career but his first in a home game. He started the 2019 opener in Milwaukee.

“Opening day in St. Louis is a special day, from the first time I got to experience it for myself,” Mikolas said. “They put on such a great experience for the players and the fans and to help us get off on the right foot will be tremendous for me.

“This is where I’ve kind of always wanted to play, getting pulled out of school to come to spring training games … This is the place I wanted to be and where I wanted to stay.”

The 2018 opener was the first time Mikolas had been on an opening-day roster in his major-league career.

“It was everything you could imagine,” Mikolas said. “You’ve got the cars around the track, the Hall of Famers, the Clydesdales, the stadium’s packed. It was kind of like ‘This is great,’ … I haven’t really looked back since.”

Mikolas, 34, will inherit a lot of the leadership of the Cardinals’ pitching staff after Wainwright retires. He said he will spend this season trying to be sure he is ready for that role.

“It’s an exciting thought, and something I’ve been thinking of for quite some time, trying to absorb lessons from Adam and kind of watching how he goes about his business,” Mikolas said. “He’s not only tremendous in leading by example but being able to take guys under his wing and pull guys aside and help them on an individual basis.

“He’s done that to me a lot. I’m just happy to carry on his tradition of being able to help young guys kind of find their footing up here and be successful … He’s a large part of this organization, almost like a player-coach, with all of his experience.

“I will try my best, but those are some big shoes to fill.”

Mikolas intends to watch Wainwright as closely as possible this season, soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

“I learn a lot about pitching just by watching him,” Mikolas said. “From the leadership side, one of the things you see from him is his ability to have patience with guys and let them get their feet wet before he rushes in to give them advice.

“His ability to kind of control the room, to stand up and let everyone know, ‘I’ve got something to say,’ and when he’s got something to say you know it’s important with all his years of experience … He’s super accessible. We all know where his locker is, on the end. The chair next to him is always open. I hope to be that guy this year and beyond.”

By signing Mikolas to the extension, the Cardinals now have two starters signed past this season, although with Steven Matz. Both Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery can be free agents after 2023.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports

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