SARASOTA, Fla. - Managers always issue the same warning about not falling in love with spring training numbers, but it’s pretty easy to crush on Jai Miller.
Miller leads the Orioles with seven RBIs, two more than Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty. He’s batting .333 and is one of only three players on the team with a home run (Chris Davis and Flaherty are the others.)
“I definitely feel good,” Miller said. “I’ve been having good ABs, been making good contact. It’s just one of those things where you have to keep it going and let everybody see all the different things I can do.”
Miller is out of options, so the club could be facing a difficult decision with him. Endy Chavez will stick as the fourth outfielder. Manager Buck Showalter would like his utility infielder to possess the skills to play the outfield if needed.
“I try not to worry about that, because if you start focusing on that, it takes away from your focus on the field and trying to execute the things you want to do,” Miller said. “I know if I come out and just play hard and do all the little things and play the game the right way, everything will take care of itself.”
Miller has played all three outfield positions in camp, which certainly enhances his value.
“I’ve played all three in the past, so it definitely doesn’t hurt being versatile,” he said.
Miller had a banner day yesterday, doubling twice, hitting a three-run homer and scoring three runs. However, he struck out twice, the last time with the bases loaded and one out in the 10th inning. The Orioles failed to score the go-ahead run and settled for a 7-7 tie.
“Not even just that AB, but the two strikeouts. Those were the two ABs I was thinking about the most after the game yesterday,” he said.
Miller knows that he must cut down on the high strikeout totals that have dogged him throughout his professional career.
“Definitely, and just getting the ball in play with two strikes,” he said. “Even in that situation, any type of ball hit to the outfield wins the game. Just replaying ABs and thinking about my approach and thinking about what I did wrong and what I need to do to change, stuff like that.”
Miller’s power was evident yesterday when he easily cleared the 400-foot sign in center field despite the wind blowing in, as usual.
“I hit it pretty good,” he said. “If it goes out, it goes out. I was just happy squaring the ball up and making solid contact.”
As for today’s game, Jake Arrieta struck out Alex Presley and Andrew McCutchen in a perfect top of the first inning. He threw 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, and his fastball topped out at 95 mph.
J.J. Hardy homered off James McDonald in the bottom of the first. Now the Orioles have four players who have gone deep.
Nick Markakis struck out on three pitches in his first spring at-bat.
One other note:
Darren O’Day continues to recover from a strained right groin muscle. The process is slowed because of his sidearmed delivery.
“He’s really sitting on that groin,” Showalter said.
Enjoy the visual.
“He still feels it a little bit, but nothing like he initially did,” Showalter said. “He’s getting better.”
Update: The Pirates scored four runs off Arrieta in the second inning, working him for four singles and a double - the latter by Clint Barmes that plated the first two runs. Presley added a two-run single. Arrieta threw 25 pitches, 15 for strikes.
Mark Reynolds homered with two outs in the bottom of the second to reduce Pittsburgh’s lead to 4-2, and Nolan Reimold followed with a double. The Orioles have hit four homers in the last two games, increasing their total to five.
My apologies for omitting Flaherty earlier. I keep trying to stick him with a double yesterday, and I don’t know why.
Update II: Reimold stole third and scored on Endy Chavez’s two-out single. Robert Andino, who had walked to extend the rally, scored the tying run on Hardy’s single.
Markakis bounced to first base in his second at-bat. He’s seen six pitches today and is 0-for-2 with a strikeout.