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February 25, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda head into intrasquad game as nearly finished (minor league) products

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Had a chance to chat today with Mariners coaches Carl Willis and Robby Thompson, who are working closest with top Mariners prospects Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley, respectively. From what they are saying, the two are pretty close to being about major league ready.
Willis and I discussed Pineda’s change-up, which some observers feel comes in too hard at speeds reaching 89 or 90 mph. But Willis doesn’t share the concern.
“I know there was some thought that his change-up was maybe a little too firm,” Willis said. “But when you can gun that fastball in there the way he does – he can get it up to 97 or 98 mph – then that’s still enough of a difference to be effective.”
Instead, it’s Pineda’s slider the team is most focused on. It also came in a bit too hard and flat at times last year.
Willis said the team is working with Pineda to get better rotation and movement on the ball so that it comes in more off-speed and less straight. Last year, hitters were teeing off on Pineda when he didn’t get any movement on it.
You can’t be a two-pitch starter in the big leagues. So, Pineda’s ability to reach the majors will hinge largely on his slider at this point. We’ll look for it momentarily in the intrasquad game.
As for Ackley, Thompson said his bat is the least of the team’s worries.


“For a young kid, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a guy repeat that swing path as consistently as he does,” said Thompson, the M’s bench coach who doubles as the team’s infield instructor. “And the way he takes the head of the bat — whether the ball’s down and away, or down and in – and can manipulate the bat to where it needs to be.”
Thompson didn’t really know what to expect about Ackley’s glove. But he did speak this winter with Indians AAA manager Mike Sarbaugh, who managed Ackley in the Arizona Fall League. Sarbaugh, a former infielder, told Thompson he had nothing to worry about.
And Thompson verified that pretty quickly this spring.
“We look for actions,” he said. “How his hands and feet move together. How he moves around. Obviously, the pivot. His arm strength on the pivot. How he works around the back (of second base). For me, he’s ahead of the game compared to where I thought he might be.”
Right now, he added, it’s just a matter of getting Ackley more games under his belt, so that his actions at second come automatically. We’ll see some of that this afternoon as well.

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