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Rays' Brad Miller accepts move to second as step toward winning championship

PORT CHARLOTTE — Fireworks exploded over Raymond James Stadium. Confetti fired from field-level cannons. The championship trophy was presented to the Clemson football team after its comeback victory against top-ranked and defending champion Alabama.

It was quite the moment.

Up in the stands that January night-turned-morning was Brad Miller, the former Clemson baseball player.

"It was awesome," he said. "Awesome. Awesome night."

Miller enjoys watching teams win it all.

Game 7 of the World Series. The Cubs and Indians. On the mound for the final out was Mike Montgomery, a former Rays farmhand and a former teammate of Miller's in Seattle.

"You're seeing them living the dream," Miller said. "That's what you want to do. I love watching celebrations in sports, because you think, 'Okay, one day I'm going to feel that.' "

This is Miller's second season with the Rays. He will be playing his third position.

Last year's opening day shortstop who was moved to first base on Aug. 8 is targeted as this year's second baseman.

Manager Kevin Cash said Friday that Miller will get as many reps as possible this spring at second. He will play some shortstop, but the team now looks at him as a second baseman.

There are several reasons for the change.

Matt Duffy, acquired at the trade deadline in August, is the shortstop. Logan Morrison returns at first base. The Rays will use Rickie Weeks there as well.

Logan Forsythe was traded earlier this month for pitching prospect Jose De Leon.

Miller hit 30 home runs last season, and the Rays want to keep that power in the lineup.

"I know this is kind of the plan right now," Miller said. "We've had a lot of communication, a lot of talk. Cash definitely said they still believe in me at short. (But) this is our roster makeup right now."

Then Miller added, "It's a long year. I learned that over the last couple of years."

Miller, who made one start in leftfield last year, has played at least two positions during each of his four big-league seasons. He has started at least one game at every position except pitcher and catcher.

Miller welcomed the trade to the Rays in November 2015 because he was told he would be the everyday shortstop. But his fielding was suspect at times, so he was moved to first base. Miller wasn't happy about the move but continued his career year at the plate.

If Miller is upset with this latest move, he is hiding it well. Like he said, it is a long season and the Rays have not given up on him at short.

Also, Miller's production at the plate in 2016 and the team's overall performance — last place — has him eager for 2017.

"Last season I was happy I found some things that worked, but at the same time I felt hungry, I felt determined," he said. "We finished last place in the division."

Miller ran to second base to field grounders during his first workout of the spring as if that was the position he played last season. It was a move that impressed Cash.

"That shows me that he gets it," Cash said. "He's about us winning, and he knows he can impact us the most at being as good as he can at second base and still being capable of playing the other positions."

Miller wants to help the Rays win. He hopes to one day shake confetti out of his hair after a championship celebration, to live the dream.

He also knows he plays for the Rays, where nothing is etched in stone.

And there is this:

"You know how we (shift)," Miller said. "At second, you spend a lot of time on the other side of the bag."

Rays' Brad Miller accepts move to second as step toward winning championship 02/17/17 [Last modified: Friday, February 17, 2017 9:21pm]
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