Over the course of Owen Miller’s ongoing minor league baseball education, the former Illinois State standout has learned what a Sod Poodle is in the process of becoming one.
“It’s a Texas thing,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s a nickname for a prairie dog.”
Miller continues to make a name for himself in the San Diego Padres organization, advancing to the Double A level in his first full professional season.
“It’s been fun so far,” Miller said of playing for the Amarillo Sod Poodles in the Texas League. “The people in Amarillo are awesome. They treat us like celebrities, and we have a great atmosphere at games.”
Miller is batting .286 with three home runs and 10 RBIs over his first 98 at-bats in Amarillo.
“Once you go to AA, guys are there for a reason. The pitching quality is better. You see guys throw harder and have better stuff,” said Miller. “The guys are older, too. It’s about making adjustments at the plate.”
Miller was a third-round draft pick out of ISU last June. Between short season Tri-City and Class A Fort Wayne, Miller batted .336 with four homers and 33 RBIs in 298 at-bats.
He was promoted to Double A San Antonio for the Texas League playoffs and helped win a game with a home run. The Padres moved their Double A affiliate to Amarillo in the offseason.
“They hinted if I had a good spring training, I could possibly start at Double A,” said Miller, who skipped over high A and a stint with Lake Elsinore of the California League. “I got faster and stronger and had a good spring training so I was happy to start there.”
The 22-year-old Miller, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 26 prospect in the San Diego system, is playing primarily shortstop with about “two games out of 10 at second base so I can get some work over there.”
That second base experience could be significant. San Diego has a budding superstar in 20-year-old Fernando Tatis Jr. manning shortstop at the major league level with another of the game’s top middle infield prospects in 21-year-old Luis Urias at Triple A.
“I don’t look at that too much. I’ve got to go out and perform,” Miller said. “It’s the same approach I used at Illinois State and last summer, coming to the ballpark with a positive attitude.”
Stewart at Oklahoma City: Former ISU and Normal West pitcher Brock Stewart began the season at the major league level with the Los Angeles Dodgers but has since been sent down to Triple A Oklahoma City.
The 27-year-old Stewart, who made his major league debut in 2016, allowed eight earned runs in four innings with the Dodgers. At Oklahoma City, Stewart owns a 2.81 ERA in 16 innings.
Cerny, Birlingmair teammates: Normal West graduate Reid Birlingmair and Bloomington product Charlie Cerny are teammates with Oakland’s Class A Midwest League team in Beloit, Wis.
Both were drafted out of Illinois-Chicago last June, Cerny in the seventh round and Birlingmair in the 28th.
Cerny has an 0-1 record and a 2.79 ERA in 9⅔ innings. Birlingmair has no record with a 6.35 ERA in his first 5⅔ innings of the season.
Cerny and Birlingmair will be close to home May 13-15 when Beloit plays a series at Dozer Park in Peoria.
Rhoades in Triple A: Former ISU hurler Jeremy Rhoades spent time with the Los Angeles Angels in spring training before opening the campaign at Class AAA Salt Lake City.
A fourth round pick of the Angels in 2014, Rhoades sports a 1-1 record and a 9.28 ERA over 10⅔ innings thus far.
Ramirez still catching: Former ISU catcher Jean Ramirez had a brief minor league playing career, but has caught on as a bullpen catcher for the Tampa Bay Rays.