By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
CINCINNATI — Someone had to do it, so why not give Brad Miller a chance?
On Friday afternoon, Mariners manager Eric Wedge penciled in the rookie at the top of the batting order against the Reds.
Yes, he’d played in just six big-league games and is hitting .200 (4-for-20) with a .300 on-base percentage and two stolen bases coming into Friday.
But the Mariners don’t have many true lead-off options on the roster. This season Wedge has used Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders. Bay and Chavez weren’t in Friday’s lineup, Gutierrez rarely plays and Saunders is struggling. Wedge’s options are limited.
“You know, he puts up good at-bats,” Wedge said of the rookie shortstop. “We don’t have Bay in there and no Chavez in there, so we had to find someone to pop in there. I like having the young kids up top, the veterans in the middle and the young kids after them. We’ll see what happens.”
It’s not exactly new territory for Miller. He’s more than familiar with batting atop the order.
“Last year, in my first full year, I led off pretty much every game in High Desert or Jackson,” he said. “I feel comfortable there. Hopefully I can set the tone. I’ve had a lot of experience, for sure.”
Miller isn’t going to do anything different just because he’s batting lead-off. He’ll keep the approach that got him called up to the big leagues.
“Just get on base,” he said. “It’s the same thing. Really, you could be leading off the inning just one time. They say hitting’s contagious, so hopefully go up, have a good at-bat, and pass on to the next guy.”
He did just that in his first at-bat of the game. He fell behind 0-2 and then tripled to right-center field.
Miller is also hoping to steal a base or two and get into scoring position for the middle of the order.
“All the games since I’ve been here have been close ball games,” he said. “The ability to take an extra base or score on a hit is huge. You’ve got to cash in runs any time you can.”
Miller wasn’t known as a great base stealer as a prospect. But he is using the advanced scouting at the big-league level and the knowledge of first base coach Mike Brumley to his advantage.
“I think just the attention to detail up here is awesome,” Miller said “The amount of information available, you can really take advantage of it, if you want to, the coaches knowing so many tendencies of guys.
“And talking with Brum, if he has any ideas about a team, or how they like to do stuff, being aggressive out there. Once you get to first or second, your job’s not done. It just switches gears to running. So that’s big, instead of kind of being happy to be on base. That’s the difference.”
Morse on the mend
Michael Morse was supposed to run the bases on Friday, but was unable to because the tarp was on the field before batting practice with the threat of rain.
Morse will run the bases today, and then hopefully head out on a rehab stint on Sunday or Monday. He was eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday, but the Mariners want him to get some at-bats with the Rainiers first.
Morse has been doing some running in the outfield and agility drills the last few days.
“I feel good,” he said. “It felt good when I was running. This is a lot better than it felt before.”
Between the broken pinky he suffered early in the season and the strained quadriceps, Morse has rarely felt completely healthy. Hopefully that changes in the second half of the season.
“I’ve got handed a bad deck of cards when it comes to my health,” he said. “If it wasn’t one thing it was the other. But that’s how it goes sometimes. Everybody plays a little hurt during the year so you get used to it.”