Brad Miller playing a leading role in Mariners’ surge
By Jim Moore
How cool would it be to spend the past few months in Brad Miller’s shoes?
He started the season in Double-A Jackson, got promoted to Tacoma on May 25, and on June 28 he was called up by the Mariners. At Tacoma, he was averaging .356 and left the Rainiers with a 22-game hitting streak.
The Mariners shortstop hasn’t even been here a month yet he’s one of the catalysts behind the eight-game winning streak and the team’s overall resurgence.
The Mariners are 13-3 when Miller starts at shortstop and 11-4 when he leads off. After going 0 for 7 in the last two games, Miller is averaging .247 but still has 14 RBIs in three and a half weeks compared to Brendan Ryan’s 17 in three and a half months.
He was the American League player of the week last week after hitting two homers in Friday night’s 10-4 win at Houston. Miller became the first Mariners rookie to win the award since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
“It’s been so much fun,” Miller said when we talked to him on “Wyman, Mike and Moore” on Monday. “Everyone is playing well. It’s fun to be a part of it.”
His parents flew in from Orlando and were at Minute Maid Park in Houston last weekend.
“Having them there was extra special,” Miller said. “To see them after the game and give them the home-run balls was pretty cool.”
Defensively, Miller’s not Ryan. Offensively, he’s not Ryan either, and that’s the best part. And it’s not as if he’s a bad shortstop; Miller’s perfectly fine out there.
In Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over Cleveland, he had a part in the stunning double play that got Tom Wilhelmsen out of trouble in the ninth, tagging Drew Stubbs between third and home. He also flawlessly turned a double play earlier in the game, taking a throw from second baseman Nick Franklin and firing to first.
“We’re both pretty new to all of this,” Miller said of Franklin. “We’ve gone through all the learning experiences together. After I hit my second one (in Houston), he said: ‘Hey, what was that?’ I told him that I saw a Mariners rookie do that earlier this year so I had to do that, too.”
Franklin hit two home runs in a game in San Diego on May 30. He also had a grand slam in a 12-5 victory over the Astros last Sunday. Before that game, Franklin was spotted walking around the dugout with a police officer’s cap.
“Nice, Nick, that’s such a good look for you,” Miller told Franklin. “We started calling him Officer Nick.”
Miller’s an old-school player who likes to get dirty when he plays. He also doesn’t use batting gloves.
“It’s kind of cool when I see other guys who don’t (wear them),” Miller said. “Through the minors, there would be a head nod, like: ‘I see ya, you’re keeping it alive.’ It’s like a brotherhood. It’s a total feel thing. It feels a lot better for me.”
Miller also has an unusual way that he gets ready to hit. After taking his stance, he starts by having only his left hand on the bat.
“I started that this past offseason,” he said. “It’s a reminder of where I want my hands to start. It might look a little funky, but I like the feeling.”
Miller admitted to having several superstitions such as wearing the same undershirt for every game. He also said that he won’t spit on the infield. Miller got that one from Ryan. He’ll spit on the outfield grass but not on the infield, though I could swear I saw him spit on the infield during the ROOT broadcast Tuesday night.
“Baseball players in general are pretty weird,” Miller said. “I’ve got stuff I gotta do.”
Toward the end of the interview, I asked him if the Mariners were thinking about the playoffs like I am.
“That’s the No. 1 goal,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been up here, it’s all about winning and we want to keep it rolling.”
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and kitsapsun.com. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.