By Brent Stecker
When the conversation around the Mariners has turned to the prospects that would make their MLB debut in 2013, it usually took a while for shortstop Brad Miller's name to come up. So it only makes sense how wild the scene was after he was surprisingly called up from Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday night.
"I don't even know what I said or what happened. It was right after our game at Tacoma, they called me in and I lost it," Miller told "Wyman, Mike and Moore" prior to making his first appearance Friday with Seattle. "They shut the door behind us with all the coaches and everybody, and then when I came out a couple of the guys saw me and they were looking at me like, 'Wait, what just happened?' (Pitcher Danny) Hultzen, who's my roommate, who I signed with here in 2011 and we've kind of got pretty close, he lifted me up and started running around, and everybody caught on. I think (outfielder Carlos) Peguero or somebody dumped a bucket of ice water on me and I didn't even feel a thing. I couldn't have told you what was happening. It was awesome just getting to share that with my teammates."
While Miller hasn't garnered the same recognition that fellow prospects like Hultzen, Mike Zunino or Nick Franklin have, the 24-year-old's performance at Triple-A was too much for the Mariners to ignore. He had a slash line of .356/.426/.596 at Tacoma, with six homers, 28 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 26 games. He credits his success in the minors to keeping his eyes and ears open in spring training.
"Last year, my first full season, getting those at-bats under my belt, and even in big-league camp this spring training, I just felt like there was a lot of good information and insight there," he said. "I wanted to take advantage of it and carry it over into the year."
He's done that and then some – he hit .469 with runners in scoring position for the Rainiers, something the Mariners have sorely lacked in this season.
"Maybe it can reiterate your plan a little bit, seeing the guy right out in front of you saying, 'Hey, he's right there.' I want to drive in some runs," he said of hitting with runners in scoring position. "I think that's the mentality I always want to have. I want to hit the ball with some authority, I want to drive the ball and I want to get some runs going. That's the biggest thing, just trying to get on the board."
The knock on Miller is his glove – he made six errors in Triple-A, and the word going around is the occasional routine play will get the best of him. He's confident that his ability to learn will help him in that respect with the Mariners, especially since defensive wizard Brendan Ryan is also on the roster.
"(Ryan) was so eager to help in spring training, and I tried to soak up everything. His mind is incredible. He really, really works at it," Miller said. "I think the main component of defense is how hard you want to work on it. ... I think the biggest thing is being consistent. I want to be the anchor there that people can rely on. I think that the true test of a shortstop is reliability."