Starting center fielder says his ankle is fine after missing 19 games with sprain.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After dealing with a few flight delays caused largely by the thunderstorms that were hitting the Southeast much of Monday evening, Austin Jackson arrived in the Tampa Bay area early Tuesday. As expected, he was inserted into the starting lineup in center field and in the leadoff spot in the batting order. He was 1 for 5 with a run scored. Jackson missed 19 games with an ankle sprain.

“The ankle is good,” he said. “It’s been feeling a lot better. I was able to play some games in center and was able to cut on it and stop on it. It’s always a good sign.”

Jackson wasn’t worried about playing on the turf of Tropicana Field.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “There would have been a little concern playing on the turf in Toronto, but I’ve played on this turf quite a bit. So hopefully I don’t have any problems with it.”

Jackson played in nine games on his rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma. He hit .263 (10 for 38) with a double, an RBI and four walks. He also struck out 12 times.

“You want to come back and you want to help, but you have to make sure you are ready,” he said. “You don’t want to come back at half speed. Getting to play those games and getting right physically, (and) mentally I think it helped as well. My timing felt good. I had some good games and I had some bad games. It’s nothing different.”

Lloyd McClendon believes Jackson’s defense and presence at the top of the order can help the Mariners.

“I just want him to be the player that he can be,” McClendon said. “We are playing pretty good baseball right now. He can stabilize the top of our order, get on base and score runs.”

Miller making plays

It didn’t show up in the box score or on highlight reels, but Brad Miller made a big play in the Mariners’ 4-1 win on Monday night.

In the fourth inning with Tim Beckham on first base, Jake Elmore pulled a double into the left-field corner right on the foul line. Miller, who was in left field, raced to the corner, played the ball off the carom perfectly and then fired the ball into the infield to the cutoff man — Robinson Cano — on a perfect line. The hustle and the strong throw forced the third-base coach to hold the speedy Beckham. And Roenis Elias was able to strand him there.

It was a run saved when the score was 2-1.

“That is exceptional speed,” McClendon said. “He cut down the angle and got to the ball very quick and did a nice job of hitting the cutoff man.”

As he’s done during this conversion, Miller just reacted and let his ability take over.

“My original thought was just to bust it over there,” he said. “I was just trying to play it off the wall. I saw there was a little angle to it and just throw it to my infielders. I’m just trying to use my instincts, run after it and throw it in.”

The throw showed off his overall arm strength and displayed a longer arm path of an outfielder.

“The biggest thing when you are farther away is you really have to use your legs even more to generate (distance),” he said. “I really tried to use my whole body. You are throwing it as hard as you can throw it, obviously. But you have to be efficient and keep it low so they can make a play.”

Miller’s action in the outfield has been somewhat vanilla. He admitted it was mostly base hits at him or fly balls, this was different.

“That was crazy,” he said. “That was one where I actually had to have a little bit of a reaction.”

It was a good one.


• Left-hander Danny Hultzen was placed on the seven-day disabled list for Class AA Jackson with shoulder fatigue, according to a club source. Hultzen was checked out by team doctors and his surgically repaired shoulder was deemed fine with no structural damage.