Miller makes strides in improving defense at shortstop

Miller makes strides in improving defense at shortstop

SEATTLE -- Brad Miller broke camp in 2014 as the Mariners' starting shortstop, but shaky moments at the plate and in the field got Chris Taylor called up from Triple-A Tacoma in late July and the competition between the two was on this year in Spring Training.

Miller got the starting job for the beginning of the season when Taylor's right wrist was fractured in a Cactus League game, and while the Mariners expect Miller to become more of an offensive force than he was in 2014, the club needs him to improve on defense first. Miller made 18 errors in 107 games last year.

So far this season, Miller has looked more confident at the position. Ten games into the season, he had not yet made an error, and on Friday night, he made several slick plays in the field, ranging deep into the hole and firing strong throws to first base. He said it's been a product of a lot of hard work with first-base coach and infield instructor Chris Woodward.

"I definitely feel like we put in good work," Miller said. "I think that's something from the first day we showed up, I think Woody does a really good job of knowing us and kind of knowing what makes us tick.

"But I definitely feel good out there. I think have a good mindset, I want to make every play, I want to get after it. But I think it's constant, too. I'm sure we'll go up here and continue to work on it. I've got to stay on it. I've got to make sure I'm in my legs and underneath the ball, and getting in a good spot to throw it."

Miller throws out Zobrist

Miller said he learned a lot from former Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan, a defensive specialist who was around when Miller first came up to the big leagues in 2013.

"I remember Brendan telling me I was rushing in practice," Miller said. "He was like, 'Take your time. Learn your clock. You don't have to be in and out of your glove. You've got to be sure.' So maybe it's just being more comfortable with the clock and everything. I think there's a lot of factors, probably."

Taylor is healthy again and playing in Tacoma, so the Mariners are watching Miller closely. Manager Lloyd McClendon has been impressed by his defensive improvement.

"He's played very well, looks a lot more relaxed out there," McClendon said Saturday afternoon after watching Miller's display on Friday night. "Made a nice play in the hole yesterday. Made every play a shortstop should make."

Worth noting:

• Triple-A outfielder James Jones was removed from Friday night's home opener in Tacoma against El Paso (Padres) in the third inning and taken to a local hospital after suffering a concussion when he slid headfirst into third base and his face collided with third baseman Brett Wallace's knee. Jones was placed on the 7-day disabled list. McClendon said there were no reported facial fractures.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.