With both potential starting shortstops out to fantastic starts to the spring with their bats, the Mariners must have been feeling good about how this game of chance known as player development was appearing. Chris Taylor had eight hits (four for extra bases) in 18 at-bats while playing spotless defense. Brad Miller has been in one less game, but his stats don’t show it, as he leads the team in home runs with two and is second in hits with seven.
But much like the old game show, Press Your Luck, many a streak of gold eventually comes to a monstrous, tear-filled end. On Friday the 13th, Chris Taylor’s wrist played the role of “the Whammy” as a fastball fractured his triquetrum bone. With a projected healing time of four to six weeks, Lady Luck has cast him asunder and her attention to another.
Not that there is ever a good time for an injury, but this is extremely unfortunate timing for Taylor. With both players off to encouraging offensive starts, the decision appeared to be playing out on the infield dirt. The Mariners have high expectations for this upcoming season, having a leaky faucet with a Swiss cheese mitt as a shortstop would undermine that a bit. Even more so if said shortstop isn’t hitting.
After committing 18 errors in 123 games last season, Miller has already racked up two in thirty four innings this spring. Taylor, on the other hand, was looking crisp as an apple having yet to commit an error in 43 spring innings. His 2014 defense wasn’t any less porous than Miller’s, so this stark difference to start 2015 had all the makings of a deciding factor.
Miller now has a chance to exhale and take a momentary breather. He has ostensibly won the job. As he learned last season, having a job is often just a matter of timing in the major leagues. He will need to continue to play as if Taylor was still on the field. Ketel Marte and Willie Bloomquist are highly unlikely to push Miller for playing time even if he struggles, but a healthy Taylor will.
Brad Miller now has an open path to fame and fortune. This is his career to lose (or at least veer wildly off course). If he can continue building momentum the next couple weeks and uses that to propel a hot start, there will be no where for Taylor to return to but the minors. Hold on to the gig all season and suddenly he is a fixture, counting down the days until arbitration fills his soon-to-be-purchased coffers.
This is a gift, Brad Miller. You have received a free pass to the final round. As long as you can avoid pulling up lame with a Whammy, your long locks and stirrups will become a piece of Seattle lore. Grab hold of the reins of fortune and steer yourself to triumph. For if you fail, your next chance may come too late.
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