Mariners notebook: Miller has flipped the script on lefties

May 11, 2024, 9:33 PM | Updated: May 12, 2024, 8:32 pm

Seattle Mariners...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners pitches during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE – Seattle Mariners right-handed starter Bryce Miller showed much promise during his rookie year in 2023, but he struggled with left-handed batters consistently throughout the season.

Seattle Mariners injury update: Matt Brash has Tommy John surgery

In an effort to fix his problem against lefties, Miller added a splitfinger fastball to his repertoire to replace his changeup during the offseason. The early results are showing that decision was the right one.

Miller has flipped the script against left-handers early this season. He entered Saturday’s start against the Oakland Athletics holding opponents a .128/.209/.346 slashline (10 of 78) with five home runs and 22 strikeouts. Lefties slashed .303/.358/.558 against him last season. It’s helped the 25-year-old starter rank second in the American League with a 0.91 WHIP, tied for ninth with a 2.61 ERA.

“Bryce is off to a good start this year,” Servais said before Saturday’s game. “… I think we’ve seen from Bryce this year is just the addition of the secondary pitches and how he’s using those and how effective they’ve been to really help him against left-handed hitters, and he’s going to need it tonight because they got a few (five) lefties in there.”

Miller’s splitter has become his go-to secondary pitch this season. According to Baseball Savant, he’s throwing it 18.2% of the time, which is a stark contrast to the changeup he featured last year. Miller threw 117 changeups over the course of 131 1/3 innings in 2023. He’s tossed 113 splitters in 41 1/3 innings so far this season.

Batters are hitting just .147 with a .235 slugging percentage off the splitter this season, and it’s accounted for 13 of his 43 strikeouts. Only his four-seam fastball (18) has struck out more batters. That fastball has also been more effective this year playing off the splitter. Batters are hitting just .140 off the four-seamer compared to .256 last season.

“It’s helped him a lot,” Servais said. “It’s more of an action pitch. The changeup, some guys just don’t have a great feel for the changeup. Logan (Gilbert) had a hard time with it. Miller (had) hard time with it, but the guys who especially throw hard like that, just grip it a little different, throw it like a fastball. It’s got good action to it (and) he’s been throwing it around the plate close enough so hitters will offer at it.”

Rojas finding new ways to impress

Josh Rojas has been the breakout offensive player for the Mariners this season, leading the team in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.417) and slugging (.526). The left-handed hitter has spent most of the season in a third-base platoon with right-hander Luis Urías, but the team has recently been moving Rojas around to other positions to get Urías more at-bats.

Rojas played left field three times during the four-game series with Minnesota to start the week, and Friday night he turned in a pair of solid defensive plays at second base while making his first start of the season at the position, including recording the final out of the ninth inning after making a spinning throw to first base with the bases loaded.

“We’ll continue to use him all over the field,” Servais said. “I was talking to somebody earlier, it’s a great weapon to have when you have a utility player they can really hit. A lot of guys are utility players because they play a lot of position, but they don’t really settle into one spot because the b isn’t strong enough, but he is going really well right now.”

Woo still expected to make next start

Right-hander Bryan Woo exited early from his season debut Friday after his velocity dipped in the fifth inning. Servais called the move precautionary, as Woo experienced a similar issue when having to sit long between innings while rehabbing with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.

Servais said after Friday’s game he expects Woo to make his next start, and he said the same when asked Saturday.

“Woo’s OK,” he said. “Again, it was precautionary to take him out the game last night. Fully expect him to make his next start.”

France showing encouraging signs

After getting the day off Thursday, first baseman Ty France checked in with a pair of hits, including a double, and two RBI in Friday night’s win. It was France’s third multi-hit game this month. France also struck out with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth.

“Ty has been struggling a bit lately,” Servais said. “What I saw last night is – even the at-bat with the bases loaded and the guy made nasty pitch on the strike him out –  but his competitiveness really picked up and it’s something we’ve talked about. … He was on the fastball. He was not late, which has been an issue with some of our guys, and it paid off. You’ve got to stay on the heater.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Insider: Seattle Mariners need to add bats, will have to make ‘painful’ trade
• What’s the biggest problem ailing the Mariners’ offense?
• Rost: Mariners can’t waste World Series-caliber pitching
• Why Mariners should keep Josh Rojas in leadoff spot
• The Mariners who aren’t getting the credit they deserve

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Rain Showers
High 56° | Low 44°
Mariners are on the road.
Mariners at Orioles today at 1:05pm

Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners lose to Baltimore Orioles...

The Associated Press

Seattle Mariners clobbered by Orioles 9-2 in series opener

Seattle Mariners starter Bryce Miller allows five runs in the first inning and the M's never catch up in a 9-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

8 hours ago

Seattle Marines outfielder Julio Rodríguez...

Zac Hereth

Watch: M’s Julio Rodríguez gets revenge with home run robbery

Seattle Mariners center fielder Julio Rodíguez get revenge with home run robbery of Baltimore's Anthony Santander.

9 hours ago

Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford...

Zac Hereth

Mariners Injury Updates: Crawford, Polanco still out — here’s why

Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford didn't travel with the team to Baltimore. Jorge Polanco also remained out of the lineup.

12 hours ago

Seattle Mariners players J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodríguez...

Zac Hereth

Ranked: 5 Seattle Mariners who need to step up

Seattle Sports' Mike Salk breaks down the five Seattle Mariners who could help the team most by stepping up their game.

14 hours ago

Seattle Mariners Nelson Cruz...

The Associated Press

Former Mariners great Nelson Cruz has a new job with MLB

Former Seattle Mariners All-Star Nelson Cruz will focus mainly on Latin American topics that include increasing player relations for MLB.

15 hours ago

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley...

Stacy Rost

Rost on Mariners: What we’ve learned a quarter through the season

Just over a quarter of the way into 2024, the Seattle Mariners are 24-20. What have we learned? Stacy Rost breaks down a few things.

17 hours ago

Mariners notebook: Miller has flipped the script on lefties