For Brad Miller, it starts with the routine play. The sizzle can come later.
It starts with the Sunday hop. It starts with the easy throw. It starts with plugging the hole up the middle.
For Miller, the new shortstop of the Tampa Bay Rays, baseball is just that simple.
Of all the additions to the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster this spring, you can make an argument that Miller is the most important. Not only do the Rays want a little pop out of his bat, they also need for him to be a dependable – if not sensational – defender as he takes over for Asdrubal Cabrera, a player who resurrected his career at shortstop for the Rays a year ago.
Miller, a key ingredient in the team’s trade with Seattle this off-season, is also being counted on to be good for the Rays. Much of their plan of run-prevention hinges on defense from the shortstop position, for instance.
“I know the media likes to throw out labels – glove or bat – but I want to be both,” Miller said. “I’m focusing on being a complete player.”
Miller made too many errors in Seattle, throwing errors in particular. Still, Miller has confidence he can hold down the position. But Miller also has superior range to Cabrera, suggesting the Rays might be better off.
“For sure,” he said. “Everyone here has confidence. It’s easy to believe you can do the job. The No. 1 thing is to turn balls into outs. You have to be able to play defense up the middle.”
The Mariners lost faith in Miller, attempting to turn him into a super utility player in the manner of Ben Zobrist.
“We’re confident he can play short,” said manager Kevin Cash. “Anytime you have a new player come to an organization, especially on defense, you want the everyday play made. He knows that.”