PEORIA, Ariz. — Shortstop Brad Miller returned Monday to the Mariners’ lineup after a tough weekend of battling severe flu-like symptoms and…wait…we’ve got news.
Miller revealed he’s planning to ditch the long flowing locks that conjured up images of cover-shot heroes on romance novels. He never quite reached Fabio-level, but Miller’s hairstyle attracted lots of attention earlier in camp.
Alas, it will be but a spring fling.
“I have to cut it,” he said. “It was not my decision, no. But I have to cut it. I’ve got to cut it here soon.”
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That’s all Miller offers to enquiring minds in terms of details. He says he’s uncertain as to how short his new look will be. A marine-style buzzcut, maybe, like he sported at times in the past?
“I’m not sure,” he hedged. “I haven’t thought about that.”
Now back to regular programming…
Miller has a week to recover from a miserable, strength-draining weekend before the Mariners open their regular season next Monday against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
“Friday, I woke up in the middle of the night and lost everything,” he said. “We had a night game. I came to the (complex) around 10, and they immediately hooked me up with an IV.
“I was there for an hour and a half, just getting filled up. I’m trying to build back up. I probably lost five pounds. Hopefully, in three or four days, I get back to normal.”
Miller entered camp ticketed for a competitive battle with Chris Taylor to determine the club’s starting shortstop. Miller emerged as the winner by default when Taylor suffered a broken right wrist on March 13.
While Taylor shows signs of beating the projected recovery period of four-to-six weeks, Miller still has an opportunity, in the interim, to solidify his hold on the job.
His spring priority: Focus at the plate.
“You might only get one (pitch to hit),” said Miller, who had a walk and a line-out in Monday’s 5-3 victory over the Angels. “It might the first pitch. It might be with two strikes. It doesn’t matter. You’ve just got to move it.
“My focus is, literally, after every at-bat, I go back and say, `OK, I saw five pitches. How many of those were I genuinely ready to hit?’ On good days, like when I hit the two home runs, I saw four pitches, and I was ready every time.
“Other days…I can remember when we faced (Colorado’s) Kyle Kendrick, I struck out looking. I got three pitches and didn’t swing at any of them. So it’s easier said than done, but that’s been my focus. Every pitch, be ready.”
Miller is seeking to build on his second-half rebound a year ago after a miserable start. He compiled a .268/.330/.464 slash after the All-Star break, which boosted his final totals to .221/.288/.365.
“I believe there’s a lot more in the tank,” he said. “I felt my second half was more indicative of my play than my first couple of months. But I just think the ability to get out of that first month-and-a-half was enormous.
“It’s maturity. I just feel much more mature. Not saying I’m not going to have some bad stretches, but it’s knowing how to handle them, how to handle a bad at-bat.”
That work can resume now that he’s upright again after a rough weekend.
“It took me off my feet,” Miller said. “I was done. The last couple of days just nothing. The first day, I was throwing up and had three IV bags put in me here at the (complex). I was done.
“I felt weak just because I haven’t really eaten in a couple of days. I’ve got a couple of meals in me now, and I’m just excited to be living and breathing.”
As for his hair…we’ll keep you posted.
Taylor said he’s “starting to get my strength back. I’m starting to actually do some stuff with it. It’s really encouraging.”
An examination last Friday showed Taylor’s right wrist to be healing and cleared him for increased on-field activities.
“I took 15 swings off a tee (on Monday),” he said, “The first 10, I could still feel it. Then it got loose. The last five felt good. It’s still there, but it’s getting better.”
In all likelihood, Taylor will open the season on the 15-day disabled list.
The Mariners released veteran right-handed pitcher Kevin Correia and face a Tuesday deadline on three other veteran players they’ve already reassigned to the minor leagues.
Like Correia, outfielders Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez, and left-hander Joe Saunders were in camp as minor-league invites but held the status of Rule XX (B) free agents.
That means a club must notify them at least five days before the season starts as to whether they will make the 25-man roster or enter the season on the major-league disabled list.
In the Mariners’ case, that would mean recalling them to big-league camp and adding them to the 40-man roster. They are not expected to do that with any of the three players.
That leaves the club with two options: They can release the player from his minor-league deal or pay a $100,000 retention bonus. If they pay the bonus, the player also receives a June 1 opt-out clause to become a free agent.
The Mariners, as they did with Correia, are expected to release Chavez, Gutierrez and Saunders, but they might offer to re-sign them to deals not covered by the Rule XX (B) provisions.
Players who receive such offers typically assess other opportunities for a day or two before making a decision.
Christopher Ellis is the Mariners’ new director for safety and security and will begin his duties next Monday when the club opens the season against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field.
Ellis previously coordinated security and operations for Major League Baseball’s “Jewel Events,” and handled logistics for events involving President George W. Bush.