Miner's goal: Show Mariners what an asset he can be
Veteran pitcher, experienced in variety of roles, trying to latch on as non-roster invitee
PEORIA, Ariz. -- As Zach Miner's career has progressed, going through some ups in the Majors and downs to the Minors along the way, one thing he's discovered with the benefit of all that time and experience is that he knows his lot in baseball, his place in the game.
That is, he's a guy who can fill a variety of roles -- the type of player the Mariners, or any other team for that matter, needs to have around.
"Something I've been able to do my whole career is to be very versatile, from the first to the last inning," said the veteran right-hander who turned 32 on Wednesday. "I think it's good to have a guy like that on your staff, a guy that you know you can bring in for an out or you can bring in for three outs."
Or three innings, or three straight days, whatever the case may be.
That's the type of role Miner hopes to fulfill coming out of Spring Training with the Mariners, and he knows as a non-roster invitee he has to establish himself quickly with a new team in order to grab a roster spot.
So far, so good. Miner has struck out seven batters in his 4 1/3 innings of work in Cactus League play, allowing just one hit, although that was a homer.
Being a non-roster invitee means being ready to show your stuff as soon as you land in camp, providing a good first impression, and a lasting one.
So far, so good on that front, too.
"He's pitched well," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "Listen, I tell all our guys there's a sense of urgency. There's not too many guys up on that board that are penciled in or locked in.
"He's done a nice job. I've been very pleased with where he is at this point."
Miner knows he's fortunate that he's not coming into camp with a blank slate, having worked in Detroit previously with McClendon and also bullpen coach Mike Rojas, both new to the Seattle coaching staff this year. He's also fortunate that there aren't a lot of spots completely settled on the Mariners' staff as yet.
"It's definitely a camp that they made it clear they're going to give a lot of guys opportunities to show what they've got, and that's all you can really do," Miner said.
This latest opportunity comes after Miner toiled in the Minors most of 2013 with the Phillies organization before getting his first callup to the Majors since 2010, when he underwent Tommy John surgery -- a distinction he shares with fellow veteran non-roster invitees Scott Baker, Joe Beimel and Randy Wolf.
Once he made it back to the bigs last August, Miner served in a similar role he's hoping to earn with the Mariners, pitching anywhere from one to three innings. He went one stretch in which he pitched six times in 11 days, and he finished off the season with three starts that didn't go deep but showed off his versatility.
What he brings to the table with the Mariners is the all-of-the-above mentality and the experience to get the most out of his stuff.
"He's an experienced reliever, he can be a swingman," McClendon said. "I love sinkerballers. He's got plus pitches with the changeup and the sinker. We'll see what happens."
This obviously isn't Miner's first rodeo, coming into a camp with a spot on the roster to earn, and doing it as a non-roster invitee makes it that much more challenging since the club would have to bump somebody off the 40-man roster to get him on it.
But he's just focused on putting his best foot forward, and doing the things he knows he can do to impress, such as throwing strikes and working quickly. That's the benefit of the ups and downs and comeback from surgery Miner has experienced in his time in the game, and that's the foundation he brings with him into camp with a new club.
A starter coming up through the Minors and into the Majors, Miner knows what he is now, and that's a pitcher who can do a little of everything.
"Sometimes when you're young, you don't appreciate the fact that the reason a team wants you is because you can be that in-between guy," Miner said. "I've realized I'm not going to be Felix Hernandez as a starter and I'm probably not going to be Fernando Rodney as a closer, but maybe I can be a really good in-between guy. So I just accept that, and try to be as good at that as I can."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnSchlegelMLB.