June 9, 2013 at 6:18 PM
Mariners should bring up Dustin Ackley to help woeful offense
Desperate times call for somewhat desperate measures and the Mariners right now are about to plunge off a cliff with a cement parachute if they don’t do something about this non-existent offense.
The 2-1 loss they suffered today despite an excellent Felix Hernandez mound outing was all-too-predictable given the tired-looking lineup they sent out there, replete with callups, beaten-ups and role players. In they end, they managed only six hits, two of them in the final inning en route to their fourth loss in five days.
At 10 games under .500 and resorting to using Endy Chavez as a pinch-hitter in the ninth against Mariano Rivera — a ploy that actually worked — this hurting, handcuffed team can’t afford to wait for natural healing in order to restore some sense of pop to an injury-depleted lineup.
Do that and this season could be lost within a week.
The Mariners right now need some everyday players who can man the field six or seven times per week without creating yet another black hole in a lineup filled with them. They need to hit starting tomorrow night against the Houston Astros and they need to win a bunch of games so they can avoid falling 12 or even 15 under .500 before week’s end.
Then, they need to hope Michael Morse gets healthy and Michael Saunders figures something out and then maybe, just maybe, they can play some relevant baseball in July. But right now, that’s not happening with a lineup that sported five guys hitting .225 or worse once this game ended.
The solution? They’re running out of them fast, but one that remains to be implemented is calling Dustin Ackley back up from Class AAA.
Now, I wasn’t in favor of doing this a week ago, but circumstances have changed. The Mariners can’t keep playing Kendrys Morales at first base, or they risk hurting his back like he did on Saturday.
With Morse now physically limited in his ability to play the field, the Mariners need a better option for first base than Alex Liddi.
Ackley can be that option.
Then, on days when you don’t need Ackely at first base, you can play him at second and give Nick Franklin a rest. Or, you can move Franklin over to shortstop for a day or two to give Brendan Ryan a chance to catch his breath.
Franklin won’t keep hitting forever and the last thing you need is Ryan to wear out and go back to being a sub-.200 guy. Both will need replacing at some point soon.
Regardless of how you do it, Ackley is hitting .408 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.100 since a demotion to Class AAA and is supposed to be one of this team’s young cornerstones. You can’t leave a guy like that in AAA when you’re struggling to duct-tape a lineup together night after night and are on the verge of running several of your veterans into the ground.
Jason Bay was having a pretty good season until the Mariners were forced to play him 10 games in a row. He’d hit .179 over that stretch coming into today, then went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Raul Ibanez has played 10 in a row and is now 2-for-his-last-17.
Kelly Shoppach was hitting .264 a month ago and he’s now down to .198 even after a double today because he’s simply playing too much.
Chavez is struggling to get to balls hit in the outfield because his legs are hurting from overuse and his once decent on-base percentage is down to .293.
Promoting Ackley won’t fix all or even most of those problems, but they will at least prevent the squad from overusing Morales at first base with Justin Smoak still hurt. Lose Morales for any length of time and this team is finished in 2013.
Having Ackley up here will also prevent the Mariners from deploying Liddi in too many games. Liddi did come through with that double today, but he’s 1-for-8 with three strikeouts and a walk so far and doesn’t look to be a long-term daily solution to anything.
You can promote Ackley and send Liddi to AAA. Or, if you think Liddi deserves to stay because of his power potential, you can send Carlos Triunfel back down. Triunfel isn’t playing anyway and you’d have Liddi as a backup third baseman and Franklin as the backup shortstop.
What you can’t do, is leave Ackley down there when this team needs everyday players.
Ackley at his best is an everyday guy, even if he has to bounce between two positions. If he comes up and strikes out every other at-bat staring at fastballs down the middle, then you send him back down in a week. But at least you could say you tried before the season got out of hand.
His “development” won’t be harmed any by not letting him beat up on sub-par AAA pitching for another week or two. This season was not supposed to be about development this year as much as it was about the Mariners winning more games than they lose.
That isn’t happening right now and the Mariners have to do all they can to salvage this season before it does turn into another second-half audition for prospects.
Ackley won’t solve all their problems. He may solve none of them. But he’s a potential solution. And right now, that’s about the best option this depleted Mariners team has going for them if they want their immediate fortunes to change.