While Thursday afternoon's game against the Atlanta Braves represents the tipping point in the Cardinals' contest to be the club's fifth starter, it is not the end of the competition.

That could continue deep into the season.

Joe Kelly, who has had the edge coming into spring and throughout spring, will get the start against the Braves. Shelby Miller, the challenger, will follow Kelly into the game. It's possible that the game will be split between the two as they both strive for 60-65 pitches, per team officials. Michael Wacha will be one of the pitchers available for any leftover innings.

The Cardinals have in the past couple days stressed to the reporters not to "read anything into" Kelly's starting assignment. Makes sense. It's not the start Thursday that gives him the edge here.

It's the 16 starts he had last season.

Lilliquist likened it to the boxer who already has the belt (Kelly) and the upstart fighter trying to take it away (Miller). The champ always has the edge. And it says something about Miller's spring performance that he has remained in the contest this long.

"It’s a big tribute to Shelby," Lilliquist said. "His previous spring training it seemed like he was not ready essentially for spring training. For him to be where he’s at right now — we like the good weight he put on this winter. We like everything about what he’s doing right now."

Asked what he thought of Miller's lone spring start, which came against the Nationals at their ballpark, Lilliquist said:

"Impressive. Against an A-lineup."