New duties in middle of infield

Staff writerJuly 1, 2013 

SEATTLE – Brad Miller’s 22-game hitting streak in Tacoma appeared to be confirmation his bat was ready for the big leagues.

The question around Miller was if his defense at shortstop would be sufficient. At times, he turned routine plays into errors in the minor leagues. For now, the Mariners are confident he’ll be fine at shortstop.

“He’s got the tools,” Mariners bench coach and infield instructor Robby Thompson said. “We’ll see how much arm strength he has. I think he has enough … . He’s got plenty of range. He’s a ballplayer. We’ll see how far that takes him and how far it takes us.”

Miller replaces defensive whiz Brendan Ryan at shortstop. Ryan handled all the coverage calls for the infield defense. It was something that is a large part of his game and the game within the game. Now, those responsibilities shift to youngsters Miller and Nick Franklin at second.

“When I played, I was the one to do the signs, right from my rookie year on,” said Thompson, who won a Gold Glove at second in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants. “I’m not going to tell one or the other. I’m going to keep an eye on them to see how they are doing the coverage according to the pitches being thrown. We’ll go from there. It’s all part of the learning process.”

Thompson said handling the responsibilities through the middle of the field are crucial.

“For me, catcher, middle infielders especially, center fielder, should be exhausted at the end of the game,” Thompson said. “Middle infielders are paying attention to every single sign being put down, you’re into the game, there’s a lot of action up the middle, obviously. Like I said, we’ll see how these guys handle it. I think they’ll be fine with it.”

Hopes for ACKLEY

The Mariners are still hoping Dustin Ackley will be ready to play Tuesday after spraining his thumb Saturday.

Ackley made a dive for a sinking fly Saturday and rolled over his left wrist. He’ll ice the thumb and use Monday’s day off for further treatment in hopes of being ready Tuesday in Texas.

THAMES TRADED

The Mariners traded outfielder Eric Thames to Baltimore for infielder Ty Kelly on Sunday. Thames was designated for assignment June 22.

Kelly, 24, is batting .283 with 51 runs scored, 21 doubles, two triples, a home run and 47 RBI in 72 games with Double-A Bowie in the Eastern League. He ranks among the league leaders in runs (second), doubles (tie second) and walks (third, 51). Kelly is batting .337 since May 29. He’ll report to Triple-A Tacoma.

Thames batted .295 in 57 games with Tacoma with seven homers and 33 RBI. He was traded to the Mariners from the Toronto Blue Jays at the non-waiver deadline in 2012 for pitcher Steve Delebar.

ON TAP

The Mariners have Monday off to travel to Texas, where a six-game road trip starts with a 5:05 p.m. game Tuesday. Seattle is expected to send Joe Saunders (5-8, 4.98 ERA) to the mound to oppose the Rangers’ Justin Grimm (7-5, 5.56). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports.

todd.dybas@ thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners/ @Todd_Dybas

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