Updated 3:53 p.m.
There is a frustration level for manager Lloyd McClendon when watching Dustin Ackley hit. He knows Ackley can be a competent big league hitter. But the inconsistencies and struggles are something he can’t figure out.
“I’m not quite sure,” McClendon said. “I think it’s a legitimate question. I think it’s a fair question. That’s a question that he probably has to answer because I can’t get into his head. I don’t know. I’d like to see him be more aggressive at the plate. We’ve talked about it. At times he is more aggressive and at other times, he’s very passive up there. One thing I’m starting to learn, he’s a very streaky hitter. I guess we’ll have to ride the hot streaks and pick and choose when he’s not swinging very well. He’s a talented individual. But I need to see it every day, not just spurts.”
Ackley says he doesn’t feel it’s quite as bad as it could be.
“It’s going to happen,” he said. “We ran through a tough stretch there with Sale and a couple of guys. But as far as personally, I haven’t felt too bad, other than the no hits the last game I played. Hughes was pretty tough that game.
“I don’t feel I’m a .220 hitter by any means. I’ve been through some stretches where I’ve hit how I’m capable of – I think at the start of the year and a couple stretches here and there,” Ackley said. “I think it’s about being consistent. That’s what this game is and you can’t go through stretches then in fall into slumps.”
When it’s going right, what is he doing at the plate?
“It’s just stepping up to the plate confident every time,” he said. “I’m not a guy that tries to hit the ball the other way or do anything like that. I think when I’m doing the right things, those things happen. I’m just ready to hit the fastball every time and that’s pretty much it. I don’t think it’s a matter of anything else.”
The scouting report, particularly for right-handed pitchers, is to stay on the outside corner from Ackley because he won’t swing at the pitch or hit it hard. And when he does swing at it, he pulls off the ball by gliding with the front foot and not staying tall in his swing. We’ve all seen pitchers get two quick strikes on him with fastballs on the outside corner. He’s trying to beat guys with that.
“I think so,” he said. “One thing I’ve done in the last couple weeks is move up on the plate a little bit and make that pitch away feel not so far away. I think I have pulled the trigger on a lot of those pitches away more often lately than I have earlier in the year. I think it’s a matter of continuing with that same approach of getting balls over the plate and hit it where it’s pitched.”
But it isn’t just about pitches he swinging at. Some of the things that the Mariners want him to do – staying tall through his swing, getting his front foot down early and not gliding into pitches and pulling off them just haven’t resonated. They see it during batting practice, but it hasn’t completely transferred over to games.
There is a chance he may not be back with the team after the all-star break.
*** McClendon said reliever/starter Tom Wilhelmsen has a limit of around 55-60 pitches.
“If he gives me three quality innings, I’ll be happy,” he said.
The Mariners were going to bring in Brandon Maurer after Wilhelmsen, but have scrapped that plan and will go situational.
“The expectation for us is to be ready to go two innings,” said Lucas Luetge.
Big thanks to Jayson Jenks and Bob Condotta for filling the last few days, giving me a chance to spend about a day and a half writing. Larry Stone and I are finishing up a big story package for Sunday’s paper on this certain Mariners’ pitcher, who should probably be starting in the all-star game. Jayson allowed me to get plenty of writing done and also offered up some editing ideas as well. I think as a whole the package of stories and photos and info will be pretty cool. I was also able to sneak in dinner with my parents last night. So I guess I owe the little punk lunch.
Now let’s get to business.
*** The Mariners announced the roster move that McClendon spoke of last night. Lefty Lucas Luetge was recalled from Class AAA Tacoma, while Stephen Pryor was sent back to the Rainiers.
Luetge will be available for tonight’s bullpen start. He’s 3-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 26 appearance with the Rainiers. This is third stint with Seattle this season.
*** From the game notes ... Seattle is 1-for-the-last-30 at-bats with runners in scoring position, astretch that dates back to the end of the game on July 2 at Chicago…over the last 5 games, Seattleis hitting .075 (3×40) with runners in scoring position with 9 strikeouts…overall this season, ranks 7thin the American League with a .256 (181×707) average with runners in scoring position
*** Dustin Ackley is out of the lineup for the second straight game. Even with right-hander Yohan Pinto starting for the Twins, this really isn’t a surprise. Ackley’s struggles have continued. His batting average is down .229 with a .627 OPS. There were rumors that the Mariners were close to sending him down to Class AAA Tacoma a week ago. Yes, he still has a minor league options, which was granted because of service time issues. But he had back-to-back three-hit games in Houston and there was some hope he might be coming out of his funk. That little bit of success didn’t continue.
Is he the root of all the Mariners’ offensive issues? No. But with a team struggling to score, having that lack of production from a corner outfield position is not helping. The problem is there isn’t a whole of help in Tacoma. You know the names who are on the 40-man: Stefen Romero, Jesus Montero, Abraham Almonte and Nick Franklin. The M’s do have two spots open on the 40-man roster, but they are keeping one for James Paxton, who is on the 60-day DL while the other is good to have in case they may trade for a player.
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