The Phillies officially announced the signing of Brad Miller on Wednesday, the first day of spring training for pitchers and catchers.
He slots in as the team’s premier bat off the bench, but it’s more likely than not that a bigger role is in store for the 31-year-old. In his first year in Philadelphia, Miller spent most of his time in left field, third base and second base. He primarily served as the designated hitter for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020, starting in the clean-up spot in 29 games.
“I will play him in some different infield positions, possibly left field,” manager Joe Girardi said in a video news conference Wednesday. “the pinch hitter off the bench. Possibly some time at first base.”
Miller starting at least a few games at first base in exhibition games this spring is likely. The Phillies haven’t restricted Rhys Hoskins’ on-field activities, but he might not be available to immediately play first base when their Grapefruit League schedule opens up. Hoskins underwent UCL repair surgery on his left elbow last October. His chances of being ready on Opening Day look good, but the team will monitor his workload early on.
Miller filled in for Andrew McCutchen in 2019 while he recovered from a torn ACL and the same could happen in 2021 as there are some questions as to whether McCutchen could handle a full workload in left field over 162 games. Miller slashed .240/.364/.464 with six home runs and 24 RBIs against right-handed pitching in the 60-game season. A platoon in left field could be a possibility.
“I’m definitely going to look at that,” Girardi said when asked about the possibility of Miller splitting time with McCutchen in left field. “Obviously, he does a lot of damage against right-handed pitchers and that might be a day that you give Cutch off and get him [in]. If you’re a guy that you’re going to count on to pinch-hit off the bench, they have to get some regular at-bats or it’s almost impossible. We will definitely find starts for him in different spots.”
There are many routes for Miller to accumulate a heavy amount of playing time. Injuries and the occasional need for a day off as well as the need to take precautions with both McCutchen and Hoskins could lead to Miller becoming a regular in the Phillies lineup.
When Miller’s hot, he looks like one of the better hitters in the league. In his last week with the Phillies in 2019, Miller hit seven home runs between Sept. 21 to the end of the regular season. It wouldn’t be hard for Girardi to find a spot for him, DH or not, if Miller goes on a streak that even remotely resembles what he did at the end of 2019.
Jonny Heller and I discussed Miller’s return to the team as well which 2008 Phillies we would add to the 2021 team on the latest edition of the Phillies Nation Podcast.
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