Brad Miller has become the latest Class AAA call-up to grab a locker in the Mariners’ clubhouse and a spot in the starting lineup.
Miller, 23, was at shortstop and batting ninth Friday night, relegating incumbent Brendan Ryan to bench duty. The Mariners had told Miller after his Tacoma Rainiers game on Thursday — in which he hit a home run — that he was headed to the big club just two years after being drafted in the second round out of Clemson University.
“I’m just trying to let it soak in,’’ he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people — family and friends — and I’m just excited and ready to play.’’
And his family was ready to watch him do it.
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“I woke them up last night about 3 a.m. in Florida,’’ he said. “I don’t think my dad slept. I’m pretty sure they just hopped on a plane and are going to get here for game time.’’
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated first baseman Alex Liddi for assignment. They also optioned infielder Carlos Triunfel to AAA to free up a spot on the big-league club.
Miller said he gleaned a lot from the Mariners players he worked next to at spring training. He hit .356 with six home runs and 28 runs batted in for Tacoma in 22 games after a promotion from Class AA.
“All the stuff I learned in big-league camp this spring, I just wanted to put it into practice,’’ Miller said. “Put that into practice every day. The stuff I learned from Raul (Ibanez) and (Kyle) Seager and Brendan (Ryan). It definitely has helped. Even just how they go about their business and their confidence, it’s huge. And I just wanted to put that into practice.’’
Mariners manager Eric Wedge says his players must earn their playing time after a stumbling first-half start. Wedge on Friday trotted out a lineup that included Dustin Ackley in center field, with struggling Michael Saunders on the bench.
That was in addition to shortstop Miller replacing Ryan. Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino, who were both at Tacoma a month ago, lined up at second base and catcher.
“I’m a very patient man,’’ Wedge said. “I always have been a very patient man. I’m a very patient baseball person. But there’s a point in time where you’ve got to give others opportunity. There is always somebody coming … you’ve only got so many spots to play and we’re going to handle this as best we feel.’’
Wedge said Miller will get the chance to play daily and that Ryan has been talked to about his new secondary role. Ryan’s batting average is down to .196 and this is not the first time this season he has been bumped from a starting job, with Robert Andino temporarily replacing him in April.
As for Saunders, Wedge says he’s comfortable using him in any outfield spot. But he said Saunders also has to start producing.
“He’s got to do better than what he’s doing,’’ Wedge said. “I think he’s been a little bit better the last couple of days, albeit inconsistent. He’s scratched the surface of what we think he’s capable of doing, in regards to last year and this year. But he’s been in a funk for a while, so hopefully he can get it back.’’
The DFA of Liddi means the Mariners have jettisoned two of their past four minor league players of the year in less than a month. Liddi won the award in 2009. Third baseman Vinnie Catricala captured it in 2011.
The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright Liddi.
Shortly after Catricala was DFA’d this month, he was traded to Oakland for cash or a player to be named.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.