ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Seattle Mariners infielders Brad Miller and Nick Franklin returned to their native Florida for the first time as big leaguers Tuesday.
In separate interviews about their homecomings, each mentioned the same thing first — humidity.
“It didn’t hit us till we were back here — that humidity coming off the plane,” Miller said. “It was awesome.
“This is the closest (to home) we’ll ever get a chance to play, and I think we’re both pretty excited.”
Miller is from Orlando, about 100 miles northeast of St. Petersburg; and Franklin is from Sanford, about 30 miles northeast of Orlando.
Both players say family, friends and high school coaches are making the trip to watch some or all of the three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
And Miller instantly gave them something to cheer about by sending the game’s third pitch over the wall in right-center field. (Franklin opened with a strikeout.)
Both say they attended Rays games growing up, although neither was a big fan.
“I definitely followed them,” Miller said. “I’ve been to some games here just because it was the closest. My dad was always a Twins fan, so I kind of sided with him.
“But yeah, I remember coming to about 10 or 15 games here growing up, so it’s pretty cool being able to play here.”
Neither had played at Tropicana Field until Tuesday, when they were 1-2 in the Mariners’ batting order.
While the air-conditioned dome got them out of a whole lot of heat and humidity, neither seemed all that excited about that.
“Growing up as a Floridian, you’re used to it,” Franklin said. “The thing I wasn’t used to was going from the humidity to the dry heat of Arizona.”
Other Floridians on the Seattle roster are Danny Farquhar (Pembroke Pines), Mike Zunino (Cape Coral), Michael Morse (Fort Lauderdale), Raul Ibañez (grew up in Miami), Kendrys Morales (resides near Miami) and acting manager Robby Thompson (West Palm Beach).
Thompson was asked about Miller and Franklin, the two young Floridians he had penciled in at shortstop and second base.
“Anytime you have a couple of guys coming up from Triple-A (Tacoma), and they’re playing up the middle, and they’re hitting 1-2, they’re pretty much doing a pretty good job for us,” he said. “There have been growing pains here and there, but that’s expected. As long as they continue moving forward and are able to accept the failure part of this game up here — it’s a lot different playing up here every day than it is in Tacoma.”
The Rays are back home after an 0-5 trip against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. The local sports-talk radio consensus seemed to be that a six-game homestand against the Mariners and Blue Jays would be just what the club needed to begin closing on American League East-leading Boston. However, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon was taking smaller bites. “We need to get going, one game at a time,” he said. “Let’s just win tonight’s Tuesday game, and we’ll worry about Wednesday tomorrow. The boys are in good spirits. It was just a tough trip — it happens.” … Seattle’s Dustin Ackley was back in center field, which Thompson explained was part of the continuing experiment of shuffling position players around this season. “We think we know what we have with (Michael) Saunders in center field and the corners …,” he said. “We just want to get a better feel throughout the rest of the season how Ack is in center; and not only center, but also left field a little bit.”
The Mariners and Rays start the middle game of the series at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday at Tropicana Field. The probable pitching matchup is Seattle right-hander Aaron Harang (5-10, 5.79 ERA) against Tampa Bay left-hander David Price (6-5, 3.17), last season’s American League Cy Young Award winner. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners