SEATTLE — Drafted, developed and major-league debuted in Seattle, shortstop Brad Miller had plenty of good memories from his five years in the Mariners organization before being traded to the Rays in November.
But as he returned Monday for the first time as a visitor — "It's cool to be here" — he made it abundantly clear how much of a good time he was having playing in the Rays' relaxed and positive atmosphere.
"I learned a ton, I grew up a lot and I learned a lot about myself. So definitely a lot of positive memories," Miller said. "Like I said when the trade happened, I could not be happier going to an organization that has embraced me with open arms and put a lot of confidence in me, which is really cool. …
"The excitement has not stopped for being over here. It's been everything I imagined, and more. … I'm really enjoying it. It's special, it really is. It's been a lot of fun."
Miller, an Orlando native, was a June 2011 second-round pick by the Mariners out of Clemson and made his debut two years later. He was the 2014 opening day shortstop and again in 2015, but he lost his job late in the season and was shifted to more of a utility role, playing in what was considered around baseball a negative environment.
The Mariners are under new management now, and Miller said he is eager to see the clubhouse, training and stadium staffs, although he acknowledged the inherent weirdness of being on the other side of the field.
"I couldn't be happier to see some familiar faces," he said. "They always treated me well."
Naturally, he hoped to show his old mates a thing or two.
"I think as baseball players, we always have that chip on our shoulder," he said. "We definitely do. We're competitors, so it's our nature. It's something when we go back, I want to win. I want to win. That's really all it boils down to. You want to beat them, because I'm invested over here now."
Rays manager Kevin Cash said Miller, hitting .217 with four homers and eight RBIs after a season-opening slump, has been a good addition.
"He's been outstanding," Cash said. "I think he got off to a slow start offensively, then he looked like he was coming out of it and didn't have the best luck squaring some balls up. Defensively I don't think we could be happier or ask for more where he is at this point in the season."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.