Miller provides spark from leadoff spot

Staff writerJuly 5, 2013 

— Sooner or later, Brad Miller was going to get his chance.

On Friday, Mariners manager Eric Wedge wrote down the rookie’s name at the top of the batting order for the game against Cincinnati.

Miller had played in all of six major league games and was hitting just .200 (4-for-20) with a .273 on-base percentage and two stolen bases, but it’s not like the Mariners have any true leadoff hitters on the roster.

Wedge has used Jason Bay, Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders in that spot this season. Bay and Chavez weren’t in the lineup Friday, Gutierrez has rarely been in the lineup at all this season, and Saunders has been struggling. So, Wedge put Miller in there.

“You know, he puts up good at-bats,” Wedge said. “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.”

Miller responded by becoming the first Mariner since Carlos Guillen in 2003 to hit two triples in a game. Miller finished 2-for-4.

Batting leadoff is not exactly new territory for Miller.

“Last year, in my first full year, I led off pretty much every game in (Single-A) High Desert or (Double-A) Jackson,” he said. “I feel comfortable there. Hopefully I can set the tone. I’ve had a lot of experience, for sure.”

Miller said batting leadoff does not require a different approach.

“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 the first at-bat of the game. He fell behind 0-2, then hit a triple to right-center field. Nick Franklin followed Miller with a first-pitch, two-run homer to right.

Miller hasn’t been known as a great base stealer, but as a leadoff hitter, he’s hoping to maybe steal a base or two if he needs to get into scoring position for the middle of the order.

“All the games since I’ve been here have been close ballgames,” 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.”

MORSE FEELING GOOD

Michael Morse, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right quadriceps, was supposed to run the bases during warm-ups on Friday, but he was unable to because the tarp was on the field before batting practice due to the threat of rain.

Morse will run the bases Saturday, then hopefully head out Sunday or Monday for a rehab stint with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. He was eligible to come off the disabled list 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 some agility drills during the past few days.

“I feel good,” he said. “It felt good when I was running. This is a lot better than it felt before. I feel like I can play right now if I could.

“When I was playing in Oakland, I shouldn’t have been. So I compare it to then and I’m like, ‘Oh man, it’s 100 percent.’ I just want to make sure I don’t have to worry about this and (can) play the rest of the games this year.”

Between the broken pinkie he suffered early in the season and the strained quadriceps, Morse has felt completely healthy for only a small percentage of the games in which he’s appeared.

The hope is for that to change in the second half.

“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.”

ON TAP

The Mariners send right-hander Jeremy Bonderman (1-2, 4.05 ERA) to the mound Saturday at 1:10 p.m. against Reds right-hander Mat Latos (7-2, 3.03). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports, 1030-AM and 710-AM.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners

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