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March 23, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Dustin Ackley sent to Class AAA; Gabe Gross demotion confirms Ryan Langerhans will make team

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We’ve been writing for a while now, most recently last week when we broke the story about how Michael Pineda will be carried north unless he implodes, that Dustin Ackley is headed to Class AAA. It’s a no-brainer given his service time issues, the fact he is still learning the second base position and because the M’s have plenty of infield options they can use for the time being.
For those late to the party, Adam Kennedy will make the team as the backup infielder. Kennedy ‘s primary position is second base — just like Ackley — which is one reason the M’s shifted Jack Wilson over to second base instead of shortstop. This way, if Wilson gets hurt early, they have a ready-made guy who can play second every day without humiliating himself.
Eventually, when Ackley is ready to be called up, probably by mid-June to take care of arbitration and free agency issues, he can split time with Kennedy if the M’s decide to deal Wilson to a contender.
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Others sent to minor league camp today: Gabe Gross, Fabio Castro, Sean Kazmar and Steven Baron.

The big name to go down is Gross, because it all-but-confirms that Ryan Langerhans will make the team as a backup outfielder.
We told you this week that the M’s are looking at five non-roster additions, with Kennedy and Langerhans being the most likely. In the bullpen, the combo that makes the most sense as non-roster add-ons is Jamey Wright, Chris Ray and Royce Ring. The only question was going to be whether the M’s wanted to go up to that many additions, given the guys they’ll lose on the roster.
In my mind, the best bullpen, as we wrote a few days ago, would have Brandon League, Ray, Josh Lueke, Wright, Aaron Laffey, Ring and David Pauley in it.
The only question is how many prospects the M’s would want to risk losing to keep all of those guys.
With Castro getting the expected boot today, that leaves Ring making the bullpen as a second lefty — unless the M’s decide to make a last-minute deal, or reduce the number of non-roster guys they are taking. Remember, they have right up until next Thursday to decide and a lot can happen by then. What the team thinks it wants to do now can always change based on performances in the days ahead and further analysis of their needs.
Langerhans was well ahead of Gross performance-wise at the plate and in the field this spring, is a known quantity for this organization and allows Michael Saunders to return to Class AAA to work on some things. Why hasn’t Saunders gone down yet? My guess is the M’s want to see him up close, against major league competition, as often as possible this spring. Saunders will be with the M’s at some point this season. Bank on that. Also, with a week to go in camp, there is still time for players to get hurt, so you want to keep all of your options close at hand.
But Ackley was never going to make this team with Kennedy around, so today’s move had to be made at some point. The guys who will be starting the season are going to get the bulk of playing time from here on in.



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