Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has a little more than a month to decide if Brad Miller or Chris Taylor will begin the regular season as Seattle’s starting shortstop after both had sporadic success in 2014.
The loser is likely to start the season in Triple-A Tacoma.
“If we don’t have injuries,” McClendon told The News Tribune Thursday. “I doubt we can take them both.”
Let’s recap the position battle:
Miller, 25, is viewed as the better hitter despite posting a .221/.288/.365 slash line with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 123 games last season. Taylor, recalled from the Rainiers in late July, is viewed as the more natural defensive shortstop. In 47 games, the 24-year-old out of the University of Virginia amounted to a slap hitter, batting .287 with a .692 OPS.
It’s a tough choice for the organization, especially given that top shortstop prospect Ketel Marte, 21, will likely begin the season in Tacoma.
McClendon last season toyed with the idea of Miller moving to the outfield. The Clemson product even worked there with position coach Andy Van Slyke.
However, McClendon nixed the possibility during the January media luncheon after the Mariners traded for outfielders Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano earlier in the offseason. Plus, former Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks is set to platoon with Dustin Ackley in left field and fill a utility role, so the outfield is more crowded than a year ago.
As of now, neither Miller nor Taylor is considered the favorite to win the shortstop job. Publicly, anyway.
“They both saw significant time last year and only one of them can play short as this team shapes up,” he said. “I like both guys. They both bring a lot to the table. I think Chris is probably a little bit ahead of the game defensively and Brad is ahead of the game offensively. It’s a nice combination and let’s see what happens.”
- Mariners DH/RF Nelson Cruz had his first full workout with the Mariners Wednesday after signing a four-year, $57 million contract in the offseason. His batting practice session was especially impressive.
- Weeks also went through his first full workout with the Mariners. Oh, and he no longer has his trademark dreadlocks.
- RHP Felix Hernandez had his first bullpen Thursday. Here’s some cool slo-mo video of it from the Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish. Meanwhile, Hernandez’s throwing schedule is already mapped out so he’ll be ready to start Opening Day, April 6 against the Angels at Safeco Field.
- Ackley was driving across the country to spring training in an RV with his two dogs and his wife, Justine, when she unexpectedly went into labor. They had to stop at an Oklahoma City hospital, where she delivered a baby boy.
- Wednesday, Toronto Blue Jays OF Michael Saunders stepped on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls and tore cartilage in his left knee. Thursday, the former Mariner, traded this offseason for LHP J.A. Happ, was on crutches. He is out until the All-Star break. Ugh.