By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller is already in rare company after hitting two homers Tuesday in an 8-3 victory over the Angels. That makes four two-homer games in his 78-game career.
Only two other players since 1916 have had at least four multi-homer games in their first 80: Bob Horner with the Braves in 1978 and former Mariner Jason Bay with the Pirates in 2003-04.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon was skippering the Pirates during Bay’s early burst. The record for a player’s first 162 games is seven by Mark McGwire in 1986-87 for the A’s.
Miller’s two homers Tuesday came after a rough start. He struck out with one out and runners at second and third in the third inning, and he booted a routine grounder in the fourth.
“It didn’t start off so great,” he said, “but, I thought, ‘Shoot, let’s do something about it. I’ve got two or three more at-bats left. Let’s make them count.’”
Miller’s first homer was a two-out drive to center in the fifth inning against Angels starter C.J. Wilson that stretched the lead to 5-2. His second was a two-run, two-out shot in the ninth against Michael Kohn.
“He’s got a chance to be a big-time player,” McClendon said. “We really like what he brings to the table.”
The last Mariners shortstop (before Miller) to have even one multi-homer game? It also occurred at Angel Stadium. That was Sept. 30, 2000 in a 21-9 victory: Alex Rodriguez in his next-to-last game as a Mariner.
Left fielder Dustin Ackley was 4-for-7 in his first two games, which continues a surge that began last season when he returned from Class AAA Tacoma and carried into spring training.
He seems to be getting better.
Ackley entered Wednesday’s series finale against the Angels with a .333 average in 43 games since Aug. 7. That comes spiced with a .413 on-base percentage and a .497 slugging percentage.
Only four American League players have a higher average in that span (minimum 100 at-bats) through Tuesday: Royals catcher Salvy Perez (.339); Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava (.346); Tigers DH Victor Martinez (.356) and Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano at .372.
Infielder Carlos Triunfel and lefty reliever Bobby LaFromboise exited the organization on waiver claims, but outfielder Xavier Avery is heading to Class AAA Tacoma on an outright assignment after clearing waivers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers claimed Triunfel, while the San Diego Padres grabbed LaFromboise. All three players were designated for assignment last week to clear space on the 40-man roster.
Triunfel, 24, was signed as a non-drafted free agent in September 2006 and batted .167 while appearing in 27 big-league games over the last two years. He should be in uniform today for Albuquerque against Tacoma.
LaFromboise, 27, departs after six years in the organization following his selection in the eighth round of the 2008 draft. He made his major-league debut last season by going 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in 10 relief appearances.
All four of the Mariners’ full-season affiliates open their seasons today. Tacoma will play Albuquerque (Dodgers) at 7:05 p.m. Cheney Stadium.
Elsewhere: Class AA Jackson plays at Chattanooga (Dodgers); Class A High Desert plays host to Inland Empire (Angels); and Class A Clinton plays at Cedar Rapids (Twins).
Here are the projected rotations for all four clubs:
■ Tacoma: Blake Beavan, Anthony Fernandez, James Gillheeney, Chance Ruffin and TBA.
■ Jackson: Victor Sanchez, Stephen Landazuri, Trevor Miller, Hordan Pries and Cameron Hobson.
■ High Desert: Tyler Olson, Dylan Unsworth, Tyler Pike, Matt Anderson and Jochi Ogando. Taijuan Walker is scheduled to start Friday as part of his rehab assignment in his recovery from bursitis in his right shoulder.
■ Clinton: Edwin Dias, Jacob Zokan, Carlos Misell, Eddie Campbell and Tommy Burns.
The Mariners joined with Major League Baseball and the players’ association in donating $225,000 to assist in recovery efforts from the recent mudslide in Snohomish County.
Red Cross volunteers will also collect donations outside the gates at Safeco Field during the Mariners’ home opener on April 8 against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners and A’s open a four-game weekend at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland. Scheduled starting pitchers: Left-hander Roenis Elias (6-11 and 3.18 ERA in 2013 at Double-A Jackson) will make his big-league debut and face A’s right-hander Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92 in 2013). The game will be shown on Root Sports.
Bob Dutton, The News Tribune