ST. LOUIS – Miles Mikolas will take the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day, and he’ll draw the big assignment with a new contract.

Mikolas has agreed to a two-year, $40 million with the Cardinals. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch was among the first to report on the extension. The Cardinals announced the extension and Opening Day nod for Mikolas on Friday afternoon.

“We are extremely pleased to announce that Miles Mikolas will remain a Cardinal for the foreseeable future,” said Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.  “Miles stands among the top pitchers in the game today, and has continued to provide a steady presence for us both in the rotation and inside the clubhouse. The team is also looking forward to Miles taking the ball for us on Opening Day next week at Busch Stadium.”

Mikolas, who also started on Opening Day in 2019, has proven reliable over five seasons with the Cardinals. He has compiled a 41-34 record, a 3.46 ERA and 474 strikeouts since his arrival. He started 32 games last season for the third time in five years and tossed a career-high 202.1 innings.

Most recently, Mikolas joined Team USA for its latest World Baseball Classic run, tossing six innings and allowing just one run and no walks over two relief appearances. He just returned to Cardinals spring camp and his final tuneup before the season is expected Friday afternoon.

With the 34-year-old pitcher, the Cardinals get some comfort with some questions marks facing the rotation beyond 2023. Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery will be pitching on contract seasons and could potentially explore free agency at the season’s end. Without an extension, that would have been the same case with Mikolas.

Steven Matz is the only other regular rotation member signed beyond this season with Adam Wainwright expected to retire at the season’s end. A Mikolas extension would give the Cardinals some depth and flexibility to promote young pitching prospects, bring in a big-name pitcher via free agency or trade, or perhaps move forward with a bit of both strategies.

During Winter Warm-Up in January, Mikolas said he was particularly intrigued by the demand of pitchers and large contracts from recent winters.

“It underscores the need for good pitching and getting it at a good price,” said Mikolas. “I asked my agent [jokingly], ‘What do I got to do to make [a big contract]?’ He’s like, ‘Well, you got to win four or five Cy Young Awards,’ and I was like, ‘Okay!’ Let’s just start with another good, healthy season.”

Mikolas, nicknamed the “Lizard King,” joined the Cardinals in 2018 out of the Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, where he spent three years to revitalize his approach from early MLB stints with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. His next contract extension would be his third with the Cardinals. His current four-year, $67.5 million deal expires at the end of the 2023 season.