It was a bit of a surprise to arrive at the ballpark yesterday, look at the lineup card, and see “left field” next to Dustin Ackley‘s name.
The Mariners are going to give Ackley some reps in the outfield, to increase his positional flexibility and give him more options to return to the major leagues.
Ackley told me he last played outfield in 2009, when he was in the Arizona Fall League. He also did a bit in college at North Carolina.
He was a little surprised by the news, too – he did not bring an outfield glove on the road trip, and had to borrow one from a teammate. He even joked that he would use his tiny second base glove in the outfield.
The Mariners have flown in outfield instructor Brant Brown to help guide Ackley through the transition.
The greatest outfielder in Mariners history happens to be with the team right now. Ken Griffey Jr. said that he thinks Ackley will make a smooth transition to the outfield, based on his athleticism. Griffey laughed about how Ackley was drafted as a first baseman with center field potential, converted to second base, and then moved to the outfield.
So, how did Ackley look?
His first chance was a ball that outfielders say is the most difficult: the low line drive right at him. Ackley gauged it properly and came in a few steps and handled it easily.
He looked good going back on a towering drive to the base of the wall.
There was a wind-blown double to left-center that saw him take a somewhat non-linear route, but I don’t think it could have been caught anyway.
His arm was surprisingly strong, considering he is accustomed to making short throws in the infield. He practiced long throws before the game and had a few during it. He’ll need to be careful adjusting to this, as nobody wants to see him come down with a sore arm.
So far, so good.
Franklin Gutierrez started another 20-day rehabilitation assignment yesterday, going 1-for-5 with an RBI as the designated hitter.
Justin Smoak is expected to begin his rehab assignment tonight.
Brandon Bantz has cleared waivers and will join the Rainiers this evening. Temporary backup catcher Toby DeMello is going back to extended spring training.
The final game of the EIGHT GAME MEGA SERIES is tonight at 7:05. The broadcast is on 850 AM and streams online here. Tacoma starts RHP Erasmo Ramirez (1-1, 1.42) against Las Vegas RHP Zack Wheeler (4-1, 4.14). The New York media – four outlets covering the series in Vegas – believes that this is Wheeler’s final minor league start.
- The Rainiers game story from The News Tribune has comments from manager John Stearns.
- Ryan Divish got quotes from the Mariners front office brass about Dustin Ackley‘s move to the outfield.
- The Mariners have a closer conundrum.
- Congratulations to Mike Zunino, who hit a single in his major league debut.
- Larry Stone’s notebook mentions that the Mariners have signed No. 1 pick DJ Peterson.
- The Las Vegas pitching coach thinks that Zack Wheeler is ready for the majors.
- Former Portland Beavers broadcaster Rich Burk is back in action with the Hillsboro Hops, and The Oregonian has a nice feature on him.
- Colorado Springs was shut down by Salt Lake’s AJ Schugel. The Rainiers lead the Sky Sox by 3.5 games, and the Bees by six.
- They’re dealing with fires again in Colorado Springs.
- Fresno took down Tucson in the 12th inning, 5-4.
- Reno lost to Sacramento, 9-7, but they activated veteran outfielder Brad Snyder from the disabled list. Of note, former Rainiers pitcher David Pauley tossed two scoreless innings for the Aces.
- Round Rock topped Albuquerque, 4-2.
The Rainiers travel to Sacramento on Friday, and tomorrow’s blog update may be brief. Full post coming Saturday for sure.