Jai Miller is out to impress his new team

New Orioles outfielder Jai Miller has had about two weeks now to adjust to the news which came on Jan. 3. He was traded from Oakland to Baltimore for cash considerations.

“When I found out, there was some initial shock,” Miller said this week. “But then I was excited. It’s always good to be wanted. Now I’m ready to move forward. The Orioles are getting a player that is excited to be in the organization and is ready to go.”

Miller said he got a call from executive vice president Dan Duquette, letting him know the Orioles had acquired him, and he feels he has a real chance to make the opening day 25-man roster.

“That is what anyone trying to break in wants is an opportunity to show they can play at the major league level. That is what all the hard work in the offseason goes into. I want to make the most of it,” Miller said.

The right-handed-hitting Miller was drafted in round four by Florida in 2003. He has spent most of the past four years at the Triple-A level and has batted .271/.351/.516 with 85 home runs and 253 RBI in 423 games at Triple-A in those four seasons.

Miller got one at-bat with the Florida Marlins in 2008 and then hit .236 in 55 at-bats with Kansas City in 2010. He was a September call-up last year by Oakland and went 3-for-12 with a homer.

“The little bit of major league time I have, I learned a lot in that time,” he said. “It’s given me the chance to see what that level is like and it just let me know I can play at that level. There are going to be things I have to learn, but like anyone in this game they want to be at the major league level. The challenge doesn’t scare me at all.”

Miller produced some big-time power last summer for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. He hit .276 with 24 doubles, 32 homers, 88 RBIs, a .588 slugging percentage and .956 OPS. He ranked second in the Pacific Coast League in homers, fourth in slugging and stole 16 of 16 bases.

“It felt great. Just staying within myself. The power numbers are what they were, but it wasn’t like I was trying to hit home runs. I just wanted to make solid contact. It was a great accomplishment, but now is something I want to build on,” Miller said.

“I feel like I’m able to help the team in a number of different ways. I can hit for power, can steal a base, can play all three outfield positions. I feel like I can affect the game in a number of ways.”

Miller feels his defense is above average and he said he brings speed and athleticism to his position. He will travel from his Alabama home to FanFest on Saturday and this will be his first trip to Baltimore.

Despite his limited major league time, he has stayed motivated to continue to chase the dream of playing and then staying in the big leagues.

“You just have to keep grinding. You just have to keep forcing people to believe in you. You can’t take no for an answer,” he said.

Almost no interview with Miller ends without someone asking him about his high strikeout totals. He fanned 179 times in 410 at-bats last year with Sacramento and has struck out 1,154 times in 3,276 career minor league at-bats.

“It’s something that I hear about,” he said. “I just think you learn more about baseball the more you play and I still have a lot to learn. I definitely want to improve on that.

“This past year, I think it wasn’t so much chasing bad pitches, just sometimes you need to minimize the bad. When you are not swinging the bat real well, you find a way to take a walk here or there. That is the biggest thing, just find a way to grind it out when you are not swinging well.

“It’s one of those things, where if I was putting the ball in play more, maybe my power numbers would not be what they were. It can go either way. I want to put the ball in play more and I’m sure the Orioles want that as well.”

Now he will leave for spring training in a few weeks, trying to show Buck Showalter he should be on the roster as at least a trusted reserve and someone that could handle himself well with more regular at-bats.

Spring training games won’t be so meaningless to Miller.

“Guys who have proven themselves, spring training is more of a time to work on timing and get ready for the season,” Miller said. “A guy like myself, with nothing guaranteed for me and I’m out of options, I have to come and put my best foot forward from day one and let everyone in the organization know that I’m one of the guys they’ll want on the team.”

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