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.More