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UCLA loses catcher Darrell Miller Jr. before season begins

UCLA loses catcher Darrell Miller Jr. before season begins
UCLA catcher Darrell Miller Jr. throws to first during a game against USC in April. (Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA catcher Darrell Miller Jr. was at the plate when the Bruins' 2015 season ended, striking out with the tying run on third base.

He won't find redemption during the 2016 season: It was revealed on Monday that Miller Jr. needs labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. He will miss the entirety of the season.

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The son of a former major leaguer and nephew of basketball players Reggie and Cheryl Miller, Darrell Jr. saw his first significant playing time last year during his redshirt sophomore season. He played in 55 games, hitting .257 with two home runs and 27 RBIs.

Miller Jr. was expected to take a big step forward offensively and be a veteran leader behind the dish for a pitching staff that lost three seasoned starters and All-American closer David Berg. Instead, UCLA will have to rely on an inexperienced backstop as none of the three other catchers listed on the roster has played in a collegiate game.

The Bruins are thin at the position following a transfer and a change of mind. Senior backup Justin Hazard followed former UCLA assistant T.J. Bruce to Nevada as a graduate transfer while freshman Michael Benson decided to attend a junior college following his Rancho Buena Vista High career after previously signing a National Letter of Intent with the Bruins.

UCLA also lost another signee, Lucas Herbert of San Clemente High, to the pros. Herbert was drafted in the second round, No. 54 overall and signed with the Atlanta Braves organization.

Freshman Jake Hirabayashi is likely to get the majority of playing time to begin. The former Sherman Oaks Notre Dame catcher played for the Wenatchee Apple Sox in the West Coast League and batted .251 in 28 games this summer. Daniel Rosica could also see time after redshirting as a freshman last year.

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