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Miller returns to lineup, collects 2 hits

First baseman feeling pain-free; bullpen remains hot topic
MLB.com @wwchastain

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brad Miller played in his first game since Feb. 23, starting at first base in the Rays' 4-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday at Jet Blue Park.

Miller, who suffered a broken right pinky toe early in camp, went 2-for-3 with two doubles and he scored a run. He also looked spry making the tag on Brock Holt during a rundown in the fifth inning.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brad Miller played in his first game since Feb. 23, starting at first base in the Rays' 4-3 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday at Jet Blue Park.

Miller, who suffered a broken right pinky toe early in camp, went 2-for-3 with two doubles and he scored a run. He also looked spry making the tag on Brock Holt during a rundown in the fifth inning.

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"Happy to be running around and not feeling anything," Miller said. "That was kind of the biggest thing on the back fields the other day, too. You know, moving how I should and everything. Passed that test, and today felt good again.

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"Obviously in the game it's not a controlled environment. You're going to get random things. So any sort of stuff like that's pretty good to test it out."

Miller, who is fighting a cold, allowed that he's encouraged.

"That's what I'm trying to do, get on the field," Miller said. "It's been frustrating getting down here, and even now I'm sick, just being able to play is a lot of fun."

When asked if he felt like he'd be ready for Opening Day, he told reporters that was a good question.

"First, prepare my body," Miller said. "I think on the back fields and today, after playing five innings I feel like I could have played all nine. That's a good sign.

"I think it's just taking every at-bat and trying to use it. And taking every half inning in the field and trying to use it. But, I feel like I have a good mental state just getting my body where it needs to be."

Miller will not play in Sunday's game in Port Charlotte against the Tigers, but he'll take part in baseball activities.

"I don't think it's necessary [to play Sunday]," Miller said. "They've been really smart with me. I want to go all the time, and they've kind of held me back when I've wanted to go and it probably wouldn't have been smart. I'm in no rush."

Miller did not rule out playing second base, noting that his first priority was getting back on the field.

"It's definitely more natural for me than first base," Miller said. "But I think that's a conversation for another day. I think today, it was just, 'Hey, I'm glad I'm out there in any form or fashion.'"

Rays manager Kevin Cash called Miller's day "encouraging."

"He had to move around because he hit some balls in the gap and off the walls and everything," Cash said. "Played some good defense. So he'll take a day tomorrow then we'll get him back out there."

Bullpen day
The "bullpen day" continues to be a hot topic of conversation.

Earlier in the spring, manager Kevin Cash announced that the team will use the four-man rotation of Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jake Faria and when a fifth starter is needed, it will be filled by a "bullpen day" or the combined effort of several relievers.

Cash noted that "finding out who can bounce back" will be critical.

• Rays are counting on Pruitt's flexibility

"We'll go into a game with a theory of letting a guy get to this point, but the game dictates [moves], and can change a lot," Cash said. "So we're going to have to adjust on the fly. We're not doing anything scripted.

"... We want whoever is beginning the game to go and provide quality innings for us to where when that second guy comes in we put ourselves in a position where a different look is to our advantage."

Cash said the not-scripted part "is you might see a short-inning reliever come in to clean an inning up and pitch the next inning."

"And that could happen in the fourth inning," Cash said. "You're not going to see [closer] Alex Colome doing that, and most likely [setup man] Sergio Romo, probably not. But the other guys we view as short-inning guys whether it's Dan Jennings, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado. We're going to ask those guys to be ready. Because the big part of the game might be right then."

Cash surmised that in his three years as manager he's learned there are a lot of in-game adjustments to be made.

"Simply because we play so many tight ballgames," Cash said. "The fifth and sixth innings for us, it's a lot of close situations."

Field impression
Outfielder Johnny Field, who is not on the 40-man roster, has made an impression on Cash this spring.

"You look at what he's done at Triple-A," Cash said. "It's been pretty consistent for two or three years. He just comes in, he's smart on the bases. He does a good job of playing defense, whether we put him at all three of the outfield spots.

"He's one of those guys whose consistency sneaks up on you. Sometimes you don't even notice -- you never see him make mistakes. That's ideally what you're looking for from a guy that can come in and fill a void off the bench."

Field had a three-run homer and three hits on Friday before going 0-for-4 on Saturday. He's hitting .333 for the spring.

Video: TB@BOS: Coats drives an RBI double to right-center

Camp Battles
Jason Coats is competing to earn a spot with the team as a fifth outfielder/right-handed bat off the bench. He did nothing to hurt his cause on Saturday as he went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Up next
The Rays will host the Tigers on Sunday in a 1:05 p.m. contest at Charlotte Sports Park. Archer will start for the Rays. The Rays right-hander has been named the team's Opening Day starter for the fourth consecutive season. Also expected to pitch are Yonny Chirinos, Alvarado, Roe and Jennings. The game can be heard on Gameday Audio.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Tampa Bay Rays, Brad Miller