Shortstop Brad Miller continues to struggle, ‘needs to step it up’
Brad Miller continues to try to fight his way out of a slump, entering Friday night’s game with Kansas City hitting only .173 while leading the club in errors with six
Seattle Times staff reporter
Brad Miller continues to try to fight his way out of a slump, ending Friday night’s game with Kansas City hitting .170 while leading the club in errors with six. Manager Lloyd McClendon said before the game he has seen it before from a lot of guys in the past and offered encouraging words.
Thursday night, McClendon said Miller “needs to step it up and knows that.” A night later, McClendon noted how the game is a struggle even for the best.
“Like I told him,” said McClendon, “those guys on the mound, they drive Mercedes, too.”
Miller’s struggles with the glove continued Friday night, as an errant throw to Robinson Cano on a possible double-play ball in the fourth inning led to two unearned Kansas City runs.
Miller blazed out of the gate with a two-homer game at Anaheim April 1, and added his third homer at Oakland April 11. But he’s gone almost a month since that one, and went 4 for 21 on the M’s successful recent road trip, following that with two hitless games against the Royals.
“The one thing he’s got to understand is, struggle is a part of this game,” said McClendon. “The biggest thing for him right now, I’m not so sure it’s the physical part, it’s the mental part, believing you belong, knowing you can go out and compete. I think he’s real close to getting there.
“In the end, he’s going to hit. You look at his minor-league numbers, and he’s going to hit. Right now it’s a tough go, but he’ll be OK.”
Outside of patience, the M’s options are relatively limited. Veteran Willie Bloomquist is one alternative, but he’s not considered a long-term answer. They could turn to Nick Franklin, whom they played at second base last season and who got an abbreviated outfield shot earlier this year. He’s hitting well (.368) in Tacoma.
The Rainiers’ shortstop is Chris Taylor, also hitting (.347) but he has only 30 games experience above the AA level.
Two outs? So what
The M’s have the highest percentage of runs scored with two outs in the American League at 44 percent, on 62 of 141, ahead of Texas and Tampa Bay. Justin Smoak leads the majors with two-out RBI, having driven in 17 of his team-leading 22 in that situation.
“I don’t think we give up,” said designated hitter Corey Hart. “A lot of times, you get two outs and you put more pressure on yourself because the inning’s almost over. Lloyd (McClendon) and HoJo (hitting coach Howard Johnson) have been making sure we’ve been working, and so far it’s been working out. We’ve been able to get big hits. Lloyd wants you to grind out at-bats.”
Paxton throws bullpen
James Paxton, rehabilitating from a latissimus dorsi (side muscle) injury, threw a 20-pitch bullpen session and came through it well. He’s supposed to have another one Sunday, as will Taijuan Walker, in his return from shoulder stiffness experienced weeks ago.
“He didn’t look like he’d missed any time at all,” said pitching coach Rick Waits, referring to Paxton. “We kept his intensity low; it wasn’t near game intensity. (But) you saw the smile on his face when he finished, and you didn’t even have to ask how he felt.”
Paxton threw fastballs and change-ups, and will continue that Sunday over a slightly longer stretch.
As for Walker, Waits said he “looks great, nice and loose-armed. He’s excited about getting on the mound, too.”
Starter Blake Beavan is in Arizona playing catch after a shoulder injury sustained in mid-April. Waits said he requested a video of Beavan throwing an 18-strikeout no-hitter from his high-school days in Irving, Texas, and Beavan’s parents supplied one.
“I watched that to see if there’s anything different,” Waits said. “That was fun. He was not as compact (as now), just a little bit looser in everything. I don’t want to say more aggressive, because he’s aggressive, but he just seemed he’d come right at you. (There was) a little more movement in everything. I shared that with him, too.”
• Robinson Cano has reached base in 17 straight games.
• Fourteen of the past 15 M’s games have been decided by three runs or less, meaning a lot of opportunities for closer Fernando Rodney, who often walks a tightrope.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281