Well, we knew something was up when the clubhouse doors remained closed to the media for a longer period than usual after a win such as the Mariners had tonight, beating the Angels 3-1 in a thrilling and improbable fashion that has become the norm this season.
And when the doors opened, the reason became clear, as the team announced that it is making the much-anticipated move to recall Dustin Ackley, optioning utilityman Luis Rodriguez to Tacoma to make room.
“It’s time to get him up here,” said manager Eric Wedge. “We sent him down after spring training so he could get more experince at second base, get some more ABs at the triple-A level. He’s ready to be up here. I hate to option Luis Rodriguez out but the fact is he does have options and he had to be the guy to go. He’s a big-leaguer and deserves to be here and I’m sure he’ll be back. But Ackley is a guy we feel strong about. We like his bat and he’s made tremendous strides at second base.”
Ackley hit .303 at Tacoma with nine home runs and 35 runs batted in, evidence enough he’s ready offensively.
Defense may be more of an issue, but general manager Jack Zduriencik said the team feels he’s ready there, too.
“All the reports have come back that the progress has been very satisfying,” he said, “The one thing you never know is that the game up here is quicker and faster and until you give a guy a chance up here, you hope it’s going to continue.
As reported in the pre-game blog, Adam Kennedy spent some time before the game taking grounders at third, a spot where he may now find himself playing with Ackley set to go at second and Chone Figgins obviously struggling at third.
Wedge, as might be expected on the night the move was made, was a little vague on who will move where.
“We’re going to make it work,” he said. “I think when you talk about what we’ve had to do up to this point in time in terms of juggling our lineup and keeping guys in there, we’ve made it work up to this point in time. We’re still trying to find ourselves offensively and we think Ackley is goinig to be a part of that and we’ll make sure that Adam gets his at-bats as well.”
As for why now, the reasons are pretty obvious — it’s deep enough into the season to delay Ackley’s arbitration by one more year, and he got enough time at AAA to season his fielding and hitting a little more.
“We had talked about that sometime in June was when he would be ready and in the discussions with the coaches down there, this is the time,” Zduriencik said. “He’s been swinging the bat well. So here it is.”
The move overshadowed what was one of the team’s more dramatic wins of the year, the Mariners getting the runs they needed on Carlos Peguero’s fortunate two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The team caught a big break when the ball hit the bag at second instead of almost certainly going into the waiting hands of Angel shorstop Erick Aybar, who seemed certain to turn it into the third out. That snapped a 19-inning scoreless streak that dated to the fifth inning of Monday’s game.
“We had a little luck on our side there,” Wedge said. “We’ll take that when we can get it. But we put the runners in position to be in position to have something turn our way. . … That’s all good.”
Also overshadowed — including by me when I first wrote this — was the first career HR for Greg Halman, who was beaming like the proverbial kid on Christmas morning after the game. Halman said he hit the ball as hard as he could but still wasn’t sure it was out, sprinting up the line before realizing it was gone. He said it was a slider that hung and he was just hoping to put a good swing on it. Wedge said later Halman was in the game for defense and ended up with a home run, instead.
Indeed, as Wedge said, it was all good on this night as the Mariners moved to within a game of Texas in the AL West and now figure to get an offensive boost in Ackley.
A season that so far has been far more interesting than just about anyone anticipated just got even more intriguing.