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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Topic: Dustin Ackley

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June 19, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Why the Mariners are taking so long with Dustin Ackley

Dustin Ackley is honing his outfield skills at Class AAA Tacoma and will be key to the next phase of the Mariners attempting to salvage their 2013 season. Photo Credit: AP

Dustin Ackley is honing his outfield skills at Class AAA Tacoma and will be key to the next phase of the Mariners attempting to salvage their 2013 season. Photo Credit: AP

Dustin Ackley keeps on hitting down in Class AAA Tacoma. The Mariners keep not hitting at the major league level — scrounging up three runs over 10 innings for a win last night, though it took two home runs and an extra frame to reach that meager total.

So, why no Ackley?

Well, the Mariners keep saying they want to make sure his hitting is “real” but by the time they figure that out, this season could be pretty much over for all intents and purposes. With jobs now on the line in the front office and coaching ranks, there’s probably a limit to just how large a sample size the M’s higher-ups can really afford to have with Ackley since none of these numbers and samples will offer any type of guarantee when it comes to his hitting in the majors.

So, no, that hitting being “real” isn’t the big reason he’s still down there. But his ability to play center field consistently is one of the reasons and looking at the team now, it’s probably the biggest reason he hasn’t been called up yet. Mariners manager Eric Wedge finally seemed to admit as much yesterday when I asked him about it pregame.

“I want him to have a little bit more time in the outfield in general,” Wedge said. “Whether it be left field or center field. Either way for me I think it works good. The reps in center field would just be a concern right now. I want to make sure he can do that.”

And that makes a little more sense given the context of where this team now sits. Because the Mariners aren’t liable to gain a whole lot more certainly with Ackley at the plate simply by waiting another few days or even a week to bring him back up.

But several more days of reps in center could make a difference. Especially given what the team needs to do next.

The Mariners need Ackley to be able to play center because they need a backup at the position to spell Franklin Gutierrez at least a couple of days per week. And realistically, once Gutierrez comes off the 60-day DL — he’s eligible as of Saturday and I’d expect the team to move rather quick — there still has to be a backup plan, for a variety of reasons.

First, nobody really knows how long Gutierrez will stay healthy. The Mariners have tried to insist before that they knew and had reasonable expectations for his good heath. They were wrong — for whatever reason, be it bad luck, injury-prone tendancies, slow recovery, whatever. They just don’t know for certain and haven’t guessed right yet.

So, if he goes down, there has to be a backup plan.

Right now, center field is manned by Michael Saunders and Endy Chavez. It’s doubtful both will still be here once Gutierrez and Ackley arrive.


Comments | More in outfield | Topics: Dustin Ackley, endy chavez, franklin gutierrez

April 7, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Mariners have some work to do in order to get this offense firing

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Well, we’re one week into the 2013 season and we can already see signs of potential with this Mariners offense. For one thing, the power is there like we haven’t seen it in quite a while.

The Mariners have now hit nine home runs in their first seven games. Last year, they hit just three in their opening week and didn’t club No. 9 until their 13th game.

But a year ago, the Mariners were also 4-3. This season, they have started 3-4 after their fourth loss in five games today, a 4-3 walkoff defeat to Dayan Viciedo and the Chicago White Sox in 10 innings.

White Sox mob Dayan Viciedo at home plate after his walkoff homer handed Seattle a 4-3 loss.

White Sox mob Dayan Viciedo at home plate after his walkoff homer handed Seattle a 4-3 loss.

One of the reasons the Mariners have been losing more than winning is they’re starting to over-rely on the homer and aren’t finishing off rallies and innings with the kinds of key hits that can lead to multiple-run outbursts.

The signs are there, as I said. One of my big worries heading into the season was this team’s ability to get on base at the top of the order. Well, as of today, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have OBPs of .333 and while that’s not brilliant or anything it’s still loads better than the production seen up top in recent years.

Like I said, the Mariners have been getting on base. It’s what they do after that’s been an issue.

“It’s the first week and there are some good things that have happened and some things we need to get better with,’’ Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We need to settle in offensively. We know we’re going to be a good offensive club. But we need to settle in offensively, both different individuals and collectively. That will take some of the pressure off the pitching staff.’’


Comments | More in game analysis | Topics: Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, kendrys morales

March 20, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Leadoff by committee for Mariners? Seems tough to avoid it

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Yesterday afternoon, I went on 710 ESPN Seattle on the Bob & Groz show and they stumped me right off the bat by asking who was going to hit leadoff for the Mariners. Who indeed? Sure, I’ve got the same list many of you have. But who would be the go-to guy? Tough to find an answer to that one. It’s one of the reasons I thought the Mariners might go harder after Michael Bourn.

Simply put, they don’t have a leadoff guy right now. They had Ichiro for years, but did not replace him when he left. Dustin Ackley was not the guy to go into this season with, primarily because of how badly he performed last season. The last thing you want to do with a guy who has yet to establish much of anything in the majors is saddle him with a batting order role that actually requires some responsibility — as I belive the first four or five spots in an order actually do.

After that, you can throw in whatever’s left.

But to bat a guy leadoff? Well, you’d better know he can handle it.

For the Mariners this year, they just don’t have a prototypical leadoff guy. I’d setlle for them just going with a guy who can get on base.

Based on recent history, they don’t really have that either.


Comments | More in leadoff | Topics: Dustin Ackley, franklin gutierrez, Jason Bay

March 13, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Mariners TV commercials: vote on your favorite one

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is featured in a team commerical hawking his special brand of hot sauce.

Mariners ace Felix Hernandez is featured in a team commerical hawking his special brand of hot sauce.

Since we’re two hours away from gametime and the fate of humanity won’t exactly be settled today in any event, we bring you some lighter fare designed to liven up an otherwise routine day at spring training.

It’s the Mariners TV commericals, one of the team’s better marketing endeavors the past decade-plus. Every team needs to market something and they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not sure how many thousands a video will be worth, but it saves me having to type them all. Anyhow, here are the commercials for your viewing pleasure, falling under a new “True to the Blue” slogan the M’s are using.

As usual, the spots are a collaboration between the Mariners and the Seattle-based Copacino+Fujikado agency, directed by Ron Gross of Mercer Island-based Blue Goose Productions.

1. Hottest Thing in Town

Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez promotes his special brand of hot sauce.

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Want to see more? Well then, be sure to watch the videos on the turn of this page.


| More in TV commericals | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Dustin Ackley, felix hernandez

March 13, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Jason Bay as a leadoff guy? The Mariners are taking a look

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Jason Bay says he isn’t as surprised as others that his name this morning is pencilled in atop the Mariners lineup for a second day in a row. The Mariners are taking a look at leadoff candidates and want to see what Bay can do.

“I think everybody else thinks it’s a little more novel than I actually do,” Bay said.

Well, there were those 1,200-plus MLB games in which he’d never hit leadoff before. Then again, Bay has done it in spring training. Right?…um, right, Mr. Bay?

“I think I have,” he said, backtracking from an earlier assertion. “I know I’ve hit second a bunch of times.”

Ah, but second is not first. Just ask the 49’ers post Super Bowl.

In any event, Bay says he’s got the formula for leading off figured out pretty well.


Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Dustin Ackley, eric wedge, Jason Bay

February 25, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Constant change what MLB all about and Mariners no exception

Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan walks to indoor batting cages for some early, pre-workout hitting this morning in Peoria, AZ.

Just last night, it struck me that I’ve done four stories in less than a week involving players who have hired their own coaches and/or personal trainers to make some pretty radical shifts in the direction of their overall game and approach to it.

Blake Beavan is the latest I’ve written about and you can read the story in today’s print edition about how he spent a month working with University of Texas pitching coach/guru Skip Johnson in order to generate a more downward plane on his offerings. You all remember Doug Fister and how his downward angle on pitches from a 6-foot-8 height made it extremely difficult for hitters to make solid contact and do much more than pound balls into the ground.

Well, that’s what the 6-foot-7 Beavan is aiming for. He and Johnson worked three days a week — with Beavan sleeping over at minor leaguer Chane Ruffin’s place — at the Austin, TX campus of the U of T altering the pitcher’s delivery. The idea is for Beavan to create more downward angle and then to repeat his delivery so that it becomes consistent and enables him to disguise what’s coming. In the past, Beavan struggled to repeat the same mechanics when he switched from a fastball to a breaking ball. That’s a no-no in pitching — especially in the majors — because the hitters today are so smart and skilled that they will easily pick up on any slight change. So, if you know Beavan does things differently when he throws his breaking ball, you can just sit back and wait for it. Ditto on the fastball. And since Beavan’s fastball wasn’t generating any downward plane, the hitters who sensed it was coming would hit it a long, long way if it flattened out on him.

So, anyhow, that’s what Beavan has taken it upon himself to try to change. You have to admire the thought process, though the execution is a whole lot tougher to pull off than I’m making it sound. A pitcher altering his mechanics is no easy thing to pull off at the MLB level. It takes weeks and weeks of repetition to gain the confidence to use the tweaks in a game and then months, sometimes years, afterwards to hone it to perfection.

It may seem, sometimes, as if we’re constantly writing about players making tweaks and serious changes. Fact is, we are. This is a constant part of life at the higher levels of baseball, where raw talent alone is rarely enough to get you by forever. The players are just too sophisticated in how they attack opponents these days, studying traits and tendencies well in advance and now having high-speed computers as well as ample video to help them out.

The “classroom” part of MLB is the stuff fans never see. The stuff off the field. It’s a constant battle — part of an ongoing, never-ending war — to emerge on top of all comers. But just because we can’t always see it doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore it.

There is too much money at stake for players not to do this extra work, put in the preparation. Frankly, any player who isn’t constantly trying to stay ahead of “enemies” trying to get the better of him is an idiot.

We saw last year just how quickly Dustin Ackley, everybody’s flavor-of-the-week in 2011, went from hero to zero once opposing pitchers figured him out a bit and exploited his weaknesses. Now, he has to adapt.

So, as camp has progressed, we’ve done our best to tell you what some Mariners are planning in order to try to improve. As always, it’s the process we’re interested in at this stage. The results come later. And as we all should know by now, a process alone in baseball is no guarantee of results.


Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Blake Beavan, Dustin Ackley, Jason Bay

February 21, 2013 at 4:01 PM

Mariners get their work in ahead of Cactus League opener against Padres

Mariners infielders converge on a pop-up during a drill earlier Thursday in Peoria, AZ.

The weather down here has taken a turn towards the cool side but at least it wasn’t raining today like it was on Wednesday. That means the Mariners were able to get plenty of fielding drills in to make up for yesterday’s rain-abbreviated workout.

On the outfield side of things, it was interesting to see one group that consisted of Michael Morse and Jason Bay in left field, Franklin Gutierrez in center and Michael Saunders and Raul Ibanez in right. They too turns getting to balls in the gaps, hitting the cutoff men with relay throws and stuff like that. It’s entirely possible those five guys could be your Opening Day outfield for this team, at those respective positions. But we’ll see. Don’t forget, the team still has Casper Wells in the mix.

“We were able to get a lot of work done today,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “We had to make up a little bit fundamentally for yesterday. The guys did a nice job with that.”

The team opens Cactus League play tomorrow against the San Diego Padres in the annual Charity Game at Peoria Stadium. Wedge said he’ll try to get position players an at-bat or two over a few innings. Two players who won’t be taking part in any of that will be shortstop Brendan Ryan and second baseman Dustin Ackley , both coming off surgery and being eased back into things this spring.

Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders throws live batting practice to Jason Bay.

“It’s just to give them a little more time,” Wedge said. “They’re practising well and doing a nice job. But I just think it’s important to give them a little more time.”

Both players will be held out of the entire weekend series against San Diego.


Comments | More in spring training | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Dustin Ackley, eric wedge

February 11, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Bill James online website picks Mariners as ‘surprise’ AL team in 2013

The Bill James online website has picked the Mariners as their AL choice to go from loser to surprise playoff contender. Photo Credit: AP

This one comes as a bit of a surprise, but not really if you’ve followed some of the winter moves made by the Mariners. The Bill James online site published a free item over the weekend that picks a “surprise” team in each league for the 2013 season. So, that rules out all teams that are expected to improve big-time over what they did last year — like, say, the Toronto Blue Jays, now favored by many to win the AL East.

What they are looking for is a losing team that jumps into contention — like the Orioles last season.

Their choice for this year? Your Seattle Mariners.

What the website likes about the Mariners is the youth of their hitters, the highly-rated farm system and the fact that the team finished above .500 in the second half of last season.

As I’ve written up to now, I think this is a Mariners team that could and should finish .500 or better. I do think it is capable of winning 85 games now that the Houston Astros are playing in the AL West.

The offense now has some true mid-order hitters in Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales that they’ve truly lacked since I arrived here in 2006. Couple that with the fences coming in at Safeco Field and some young guys like Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero being primed for a jump in their development and yeah, this offense should be a quantum leap better than in past seasons.

I still worry about the lack of experience in the starting rotation and the fact that Joe Saunders and Hisashi Iwakuma are being counted on to the degree that they will be.


Comments | More in predictions | Topics: bill james, Dustin Ackley, Jack Zduriencik

November 19, 2012 at 10:30 AM

Why the Mariners won’t allow the presence of Jesus Montero or John Jaso to prevent them trading for Billy Butler

There was always an element of skepticism to be had when word came out last week via Mariners president Chuck Armstrong about the team weighing Josh Hamilton options. As we wrote a couple of weeks back, the Mariners have made a cottage industry out of telling people the past decade that they’re looking at one free agent or another.
But it’s one thing to talk about it. Another thing to get it done.

And for me, any Hamilton pursuit — which I am in favor of — was always going to be dubious when it came to the Mariners. Back in late September, when Hamilton skipped a series in Seattle with balance/depth percetion issues, it raised a red flag for members of the team’s hierarchy.

The last thing a team that got burned by Franklin Gutierrez and his mysterious stomach issues wants is an even larger-scale boondoggle with Hamilton. But for me, that type of concern should apply to both a short and a long-term deal in Hamilton’s case. After all, if you’re worried that Hamilton has some type of issue that plagued him late in the season, logic dictates the immediate future would be as big — or bigger — a worry with him than would seasons 2014-2017.

In other words, I’ve just never bought into the Mariners as serious players on Hamilton. Just can’t see them doing it. And that’s why, when some of you write in asking me about it, I tell you that I would take the chance on Hamilton but just can’t see the Mariners taking on the risk.

For me, you can find a reason to balk at any high-priced free agent. There’s always some type of potential huge risk involved. With Prince Fielder, it was his weight. With other guys, it’s the whispers about steroids or HGH use perhaps inflating performance. With Hamilton, it will be durability concerns and some of the unknowns about what really caused his season’s downward slide this past year.

But when Hamilton is out there, he’s still one of the most dangerous hitters in the game today. And if he’s out there only 130 games per year, that’s still 130 games of production better than just about anything the Mariners can put on the field.

Let’s move on, for now, though. Since the Mariners were never apparently that serious in Hamilton, no matter what some people read into Armstrong’s comments.

One avenue I have gone more strongly on in writing about when it comes to the Mariners this off-season has been the possibility of a trade with the Kansas City Royals. There are two bats that look like they would clearly upgrade the Mariners at present. No, young third baseman Mike Moustakas is not one of them.

Moustakas would give the Mariners another body to add to their ever-growing “All Hope Team” but in terms of results, he’s been a below average hitter in the majors so far. And besides, a team like the Royals isn’t going to trade their version of Dustin Ackley or Justin Smoak just yet. That’s still a franchise that plays the smaller-market Moneyball game and so a young bat with upside who doesn’t cost a lot is going to be held on to while the older ones that are more expensive will be moved.

That leads us to where the Royals and Mariners have a fit: Billy Butler and Alex Gordon.

The Mariners need to upgrade with something a bit more proven than Moustakas and would have that in either of those two players. Gordon would give the team the corner outfield bat it needs — in this case, in left field — while Butler would be a DH upgrade over Jesus Montero and also provide a backup first baseman.

In both cases, these two players are close to reaching their full MLB potential, where a guy like Moustakas is still in the development stage. This isn’t a shot at Moustakas, but the Mariners are well past the time to move beyond always planning for three years down the road and start to show signs of actually doing something in the present.
Gordon or Butler would help that happen.

And the best part is, neither of the two is so expensive that he would prevent the Mariners from upgrading further in acquiring a guy like Nick Swisher via free agency to play right field. In fact, I’ll submit that if Butler is the serious Mariners trade target — as post-GM meetings tweets are now suggesting — then a further Swisher acquisition makes perfect sense.
Photo Credit: AP


Comments | Topics: Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, Mike Zunino

November 2, 2012 at 11:10 AM

Mariners have about $23 million they can spend this winter before even reaching last season’s opening payroll

We’re just about set to kick off the 2012-2013 free-agent season for the Mariners, with only Hisashi Iwakuma left to figure out. The Mariners have until tomorrow to re-sign Iwakuma — as per a stipulation in his contract — or else he goes on the open market and would not be eligible to play for Seattle until May 31 if he was to come back here.
In other words, he signs in the next day or so, or he isn’t playing here.
The exclusive window the Mariners had to re-sign their remaining free agents came and went last night with no further deals. (NOTE: Actually, that’s not true. The deadline for that is at 9 p.m. PT tonight, not last night as had been reported in many places, including here I guess.)
That means, we now know where the team’s payroll roughly stands. It isn’t too tough to figure out, but there are also a couple of things to keep in mind, like Danny Hultzen’s major league deal and Miguel Olivo’s buyout. The Mariners, for their own accounting purposes, tend to keep things like those on-the-books for ensuing seasons, as they did with Dustin Ackley’s Hultzen-like deal in the past. As well as buyouts for guys like Bill Hall and Jack Wilson, which were similar to Olivo’s and carried over to the following year’s payroll figures.
So, keeping that in mind, the Mariners currently sit at roughly $41 million in guaranteed money committed to their 2013 team. They will have to pay out another $12 million or so in arbitration awards, unless they non-tender one of their eligible players. Assuming Hultzen stays in the minors to start the season and the teamfills out its remaining roster spots with minimum wage guys, the roster going into 2013 would be roughly $62 million.
Last year’s payroll came in just under $82 million for the Opening Day roster. But throw in $1.2 million to pay Shawn Camp and Hong-Chih Kuo to go away, plus another $1.7 million for Hultzen’s guaranteed deal, you get about $85 million as a total payroll figure at the start of the year.
In other words, playing by those same parameters, the team now has about $23 million in room to play with just to get back to that $85 million figure. They are about $33 million in payroll away from where they began the 2011 season.
So, yeah, the Mariners should be able to go after and actually sign some free agents this off-season. Heck, they could have done it last winter, knowing they would be having so much money come off the books in just 12 months time. You don’t go and sign guys to deals of three years or more based strictly on what payroll commitments are for the 12 months ahead.
There has to be some foresight involved in the process. Right now, the Mariners have just under $41 million committed to Felix Hernandez, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez, Ackley and Hultzen.
This time 12 months from now, they can free up an additional $15 million and change once the Figgins and Gutierrez deals run out — assuming the Mariners merely buy Gutierrez out for $500,000.
So, all that should be kept in mind when we debate what the team can and cannot afford over the longer term. Some teams have already gotten the jump on trades and signing back some of their own players.
Brandon League just got a three-year, $22.5-million deal from the Dodgers, which makes the $5 million he earned in Seattle last season seem relatively small. We’ll have to keep an eye on salary inflation, naturally, because having $23 million to spend this winter might not be anywhere close to whatit was two or three years ago.
So, we’ll see. On the turn, I’ll show you specific salary breakdowns.
Photo Credit: AP


Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley

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