By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Brad Miller wasn’t sure if it was all a dream, or if his dreams had finally come true.
The touted shortstop prospect arrived at Safeco Field Friday not only as a member of the Seattle Mariners, but was also in the starting lineup and batting ninth in a game against the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m just trying to let it soak in,” Miller said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’ve talked to my family and friends. I’m just excited and ready to play.”
How much Miller plays depends on his performance, according to manager Eric Wedge. It’s the same way Wedge is determining the playing time of prized catching prospect Mike Zunino.
“We’re going to take a look at him,” Wedge said. “It will be very similar to Zunino. We’ll work off of him. He’s going to play. How much? We’ll see.”
The incumbent starting shortstop Brendan Ryan will move to more of a utility, backup role. Wedge talked with Ryan before the game about his new situation.
“He was good,” Wedge said of how Ryan took the news. “He’s a pro. I told him to come to the ballpark ready to play every day and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Miller earned the promotion by hitting .356 (37-for-104) in 26 games with Class AAA Tacoma with five doubles, a triple, six home runs and 28 RBI.
“He’s been playing fantastic in Triple-A and made a great impression on us in spring training, very similar to (Mike) Zunino, so we feel like it’s a good time to take a look at him,” Wedge said.
Wedge kept Miller, who was taken in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Clemson, in big-league spring training until the very end. While Zunino, Nick Franklin, Carlos Triunfel and other touted prospects were optioned to minor-league camp this spring, Miller stayed and played.
“It was overall, the tangibles and the intangibles,” Wedge said. “He’s a very mature young man. He looks to have tremendous perspective and obviously his baseball ability sticks out, as well. He’s a complete player, that’s why we kept him around the entire camp.”
Miller knows that a promotion to the big leagues means little. Now that he’s here, he has to produce. He also knows that his consistency in the field needs to improve. He’s had trouble with fielding errors — 50 in 165 games in his last two pro seasons.
“I feel good out there and confident,” he said. “There are definitely some little adjustments just talking with Brendan and Robby (Thompson) in spring training that really helped, little keys that help me feel confident. For me it’s always staying low. I’m kind of a lanky guy so I have to work on using my legs.”
To make room for Miller on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Mariners optioned shortstop Carlos Triunfel to Tacoma, and designated infielder Alex Liddi for assignment.
Triunfel had been serving as the backup utility infielder since the team decided to designate Robert Andino for assignment. He appeared in nine games and hit .083 (2-for-24). The demotion will allow him to go back to the Rainiers and play every day.
Liddi was a victim of a crowded roster. He had just returned to Tacoma after a brief stint with the Mariners. This season in Class AAA, he was hitting .263 (63-for-240) with 11 home runs and 43 RBI. But his struggles to make consistent contact have dogged him throughout his career. He has struck out 86 times in 240 at-bats with the Rainiers.
The Mariners now have 10 days to either trade, release or outright Liddi. There is some speculation that because of his power potential — 30 homers in 2011 with Tacoma — Liddi may be claimed off of waivers.
The Mariners will wear the throwback uniforms of the 1909 Seattle Turks today. The Cubs will also wear retro uniforms from the early 1900s. … Mike McCready, the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, played the Star-Spangled Banner before the game and also threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Mariners hitting coach Dave Hansen, who is an accomplished guitarist, caught the pitch from McCready. During the pregame soundcheck, McCready let Hansen play his guitar for a few minutes. Several of the Mariners players on the field for early batting practice gave Hansen a small ovation. … Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said in an on-air interview with KJR that pitcher Erasmo Ramirez would be joining the Mariners shortly, but didn’t specify a time frame.