All indications are his days as the starting shortstop are over
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Brad Miller has a new role on the Mariners. He’s no longer the everyday starting shortstop. With the promotion of Chris Taylor, Miller has been asked to try something new, actually several things new, like outfield and first base.
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed what had been anticipated after Miller spent the bulk of the pregame session Monday working in the outfield with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke.
“He’s going to play all over,” McClendon said.
By all over, it means adding outfield and first base to the other three infield positions Miller has played during his professional career. The Mariners said they believe Miller has a big-league bat, now they just want to find ways to get it into the lineup.
“I think he’s talented enough to do it,” McClendon said of the changes. “When you talk about putting a club together, the one thing that I think any manager would love to have is a super utility guy that could play a lot of different positions, hit left-handed and has some power. He certainly fits that mold. Hopefully, it works out for him.”
The sting of losing his starting job hasn’t left Miller.
“I was pretty frustrated,” he admitted. “But I’m a player, so I go out and play. They make the decisions.”
And the current decision is for him to learn some different positions. So that’s what he’s doing. He put in early work before batting practice with Van Slyke on Tuesday and will do so every day. Miller’s work ethic and commitment to improving has never been questioned. So there’s only one way he knows to attack the new role.
“Just work,” he said. “Get here, get early work in and use every rep I can and get with Andy and work your butt off.”
And yet, he still views himself as a shortstop.
“I am,” he said when that characterization was mentioned.
But right now, he isn’t. And he understands that he has no other choice than to embrace the change.
“I’m a professional,” he said. “This is my job and they’re my boss. So if they say, ‘Do this,’ then that’s what I do. That’s pretty simple. You just have to be professional about it and take everything in stride.”
Miller didn’t sugarcoat his level of preparedness for this change.
“I’m very unprepared,” he said. “I’ve never done it. You shift gears and try to get as prepared as possible.”
He’ll lean on Van Slyke, who has worked extensively with infielders Dustin Ackley and Rickie Weeks on converting to the outfield. The initial days of the process are basic. There’s a reason for the simplicity.
“I sort of equate it to watching a pony being born — you have to watch them run before you can train them,” Van Slyke said.
Right now, the Mariners have Miller making this conversion at the big-league level. Can it be done successfully there or does he need to be in Class AAA?
“I did it,” McClendon said. “I learned it in the big leagues. I’m sure he’s a better athlete than I was.”
But why keep him at the MLB level when it might be easier to send him to Tacoma?
“I think he adds value to this club and he can help us win ballgames at this level,” McClendon said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in a week or 10 days from now. Who knows? Taylor could get hurt and he could be playing short every day. You just never know.”
Despite his frustrations, this is Miller’s world now. McClendon said he believes it could help him and the team.
“I played the infield and when I went to the outfield, the game slowed down considerably,” he said. “I think as a result I became a better offensive player. I think this will help Brad as well. It’s probably difficult to see right now for him. But playing the outfield could have its advantages for him.”