Mariners notebook: Miller progressing fast enough for a CF tryout

May 22, 2015, 4:13 PM | Updated: 4:16 pm
Brad Miller will make his first career start in center field in just his third game as an outfielde...
Brad Miller will make his first career start in center field in just his third game as an outfielder. (AP)
(AP)

TORONTO – When Brad Miller arrived at the ballpark Friday in Toronto he saw his name at the top of the lineup with a number 8 next to it.

“What’s that?” he joked.

Left and right field yesterday, center today. In his three career starts in the outfield, Miller already has all three spots covered. Like his debut in left, Miller didn’t receive a heads up that he would get the start. Lloyd McClendon is going out of his way to not let this seem like too big of a deal.

“Was he ready to play left?” he asked. “Was he ready to play right? He played great yesterday in the outfield. Went after balls very aggressively, made a tough play in right. He’s playing baseball. Now he is in the middle of the field to catch a popup.”

McClendon knows there is more to the outfield than just catching popups, but he is trying to take the pressure off Miller. While there is work going on behind the scenes, nothing can replace the experience of game speed. And because of McClendon’s faith in just how good an athlete Miller is and the tools he brings to the field, not to mention the need for his bat in the lineup, he is willing to give him the exposure to this level.

“He’s a good athlete, he plays short,” he said. “Certainly he can catch a popup in the outfield. Now he may mess up from time to time – hell he messes up at shortstop from time to time. What’s the difference?”

As with right and left field, everything that Miller sees out there tonight will be a first for him. Balls hit straight at him might be a challenge. The lights above home plate may take some getting used to. It will take a long time to judge how the ball is coming off the bat from so far away. He most likely will get fooled by big swings from time to time, but he will get the experience and maybe the Mariners will find they have an outfielder they didn’t know they had.

We will get our first look tonight.

Notes

• With Welington Castillo at DH, McClendon has two catchers in the lineup today (which can be found here), something you don’t see too often. For him, the decision to put both in was not hard.

“Castillo is 6 for 21 with 4 home runs (against Toronto starter Marco Estrada),” he said.

As for Zunino, offense isn’t what has him in the lineup.

“It makes no difference. Zunino is catching Felix. He works well with him.” McClendon said.

McClendon said it was a possibility we could see both catchers in the lineup again. He also indicated that having Castillo would allow him to give Zunino more time off if needed. Zunino at some point could see back to back days off where he works closer with the hitting coaches on something specific. Players – and catchers especially – generally don’t do intense cage work on days they play.

• The new turf at Rogers Centre was the talk of pre game. McClendon had mentioned in Baltimore that he had heard the Toronto turf was extremely soft and it turns out that report is correct.

To get used to it the infielders concentrated on bounces and how the ball traveled on the turf in work before batting practice. The bounce is higher and any ball on the ground is slower. A couple of guys on the Toronto side told me that not much is getting through the infield, and balls that do stop quickly in the outfield. The Mariners are aware of this and will look to be aggressive on the bases on ground balls to the outfield.

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Mariners notebook: Miller progressing fast enough for a CF tryout