As posted earlier, Dustin Ackley is starting in left field for Tacoma tonight. As also posted earlier, first-round pick D.J. Peterson has agreed to terms and will start his pro career with Everett of the Northwest League, which begins play on Friday. And last year’s No. 1 pick, Mike Zunino, makes his major-league debut tonight as the M’s starting catcher.
Here are some more extensive comments from Jack Zduriencik on the Ackley move. It’s a pretty significant development when a No. 2 overall draft pick switches to a new position.
“I think it’s good for Dustin. Actually, when he was in college, I didn’t personally see him play the outfield, but during BP he would take balls in the outfield. We’ve always talked about that. You never know what will happen. Versatility is a good thing. Right now, we spoke to him yesterday, asked him to take balls in the outfield, and he’s wide open to it. It’s great. He took balls in center field yesterday, took balls in left field, and tonight he’s starting in left.”
Asked if this will be a long-term move, Zduriencik said, “We’ll see him play the outfield. Just see how it goes. We know what he’s done at second base. We’ll let him get his feet wet in the outfield. It will be good for him. Again, versatility and giving us options and giving him options…as you look at all the different scenarios, you don’t know how it’s going to play out. But I think as long as guys have experience playing other positions, it can benefit the player, it can benefit the organization, and that’s the purpose it it.
Was this a response to the emergence of Nick Franklin at second base? “We’ve actually talked about this for awhile. Ever since we’ve had Dustin. There were different times we’ve talked about having him play in the outfield. Whether it would be up here taking fly balls. The timing never seemed right to do it, because he was playing second base in the big leagues. We didn’t want to upset the apple cart at that point. But I think now that’s he’s down there, in a little more relaxed atmosphere, the time is right.
Zduriencik said he doesn’t know if Ackley fits best in center or left. “We’ll see how it plays out going forward. If he’s a second baseman and can play center, play left, obviously he’s played first at times. It just gives you a lot of different options.
“We’ll see. We’ll watch him and see how it plays out. I know he’s athletic. He felt comfortable. I know the coaching staff talked to him yesterday, Roger Hansen and John Stearns, talked to him and he was very open to it. He said, ‘I’ve actually thought about it for a long time to keep myself fresh.’ Because you never know what will happen in this game, and I just think it gives you other options and other opportunities.”
Ackley goes into tonight’s game hitting .429 in 13 games since getting sent down to Triple-A Tacoma.
“Anyone hitting 4 whatever, it’s encouraging anywhere,” Zduriencik said. “His attitude has been terrific. They can’t say enough about him. He works every day, showing up with the right attitude — I’m going to take this as a positive experience and get myself eventually back to the big leagues.”
Scouting director Tom McNamara said he saw Ackley play outfield as a freshman and sophomore, and in a handful of games the year they drafted him, after arm surgery had forced him to play first base.
“He’s fine out there,” McNamara said. “We took him as a hitter. In the back of our mind, (we thought) he may end up in the outfield because that’s where he played before he got hurt. It’s kind of an interesting story. He was at first base. But here’s a guy who could run and hit, but he was at first base in college because he couldn’t throw because he just came off Tommy John. But all of us scouts saw him play in the outfield as a center fielder.”
Meanwhile, Peterson took BP with Nick Franklin’s bat and batting gloves borrowed from Kyle Seager and
““This is what you dream of as a little kid, hitting BP on the big field,” he said. “I’ve got some work to do to get up here and be with these guys on an every-day basis. But right now I’m just embracing this. This is awesome. My family is loving it. So it was fun, a lot of fun.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I’m a pretty honest guy. I was really nervous. But after the first round, I felt good. The nerves kind of went away and I let it go a little bit.”
Peterson said he’s been swinging wood in various summer leagues since high school, and “a little bit during the season when I had general managers come around, I’d swing wood. So I have a good background with it and I think it’ll be an easy transition.”
It wasn’t lost on Peterson that Zunino was in his position a year ago and is now in the big leagues.
“Unbelievable. He’s worked his butt off to get here and I respect that. I congratulated him. Good for him. I hope to do the same, but if not, hopefully soon. Sooner than later.”
He said he’d like to be on the same timetable.
“I would, but it’s not in my hands. That’s player development. I’m going to do what they tell me to do. I’ll continue to hit and get after it and wherever I end up next year or the year after is where I’ll be.”
Peterson said he wanted to sign quickly and get his career started.
“It’s more of the agency I’m with,” he said. “They’re a respectable group and there’s really no messing around with it. I want to play pro ball and want to get on the fast track and get my career started. I’m ready to get after it and play. I got two weeks off and now I’m ready. I think it’s more me. I’m ready to get after it.”
He said Mariners players made his first day as a pro a memorable one.
“They could say, ‘Here’s this punk kid, he’s a first rounder and probably has some good ego.’ But they welcomed me in with open arms. It’s been awesome. I truly respect all these guys and can’t believe how nice they are to me. ‘You want to swing my bat? Hey, you want to use my gloves?’ It’s not what I expected, but it’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better atmosphere.”