An all-too-familiar situation provided the Seattle Mariners with a surprise Tuesday.
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was sent to the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. Taking his place on the roster is Dustin Ackley, who was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.
Ackley was sent down to find a cure for his miserable .205 average. Once he landed in Tacoma, Ackley went on a torrid hitting run. He hit .365 with eight doubles, two home runs and 14 RBI in 25 games with the Rainiers after being optioned to the minor leagues May 27.
In Tacoma is also where his transition from second base to outfield began. Ackley was a Gold Glove finalist at second base last season, but Nick Franklin, who is hitting .283 with four home runs since his Seattle debut May 27, has taken over at that position.
Ackley’s outfield defense was described as “adequate” by Tacoma manager John Stearns. Ackley played nine games in center field and three in left.
“Not above average right away, but I think he can move into that status, defensively,” Stearns said. “He hasn’t been out there. He played, what, 10 or 12 games for us? Not bad. We got to see him go back on a ball in the gap last night for the first time on a ball hard. I thought he took a good route. He came in well while we were on this road trip on a couple of balls.
“He basically looked like he’d played there before. But for not having been out there for a while, I thought he made great progress while he was here in a short time on his outfield defense.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he would have “no hesitation” about putting Ackley in the outfield.
“We’re going to keep working him in the outfield,” Wedge said. “You might see him in the infield, too.”
After sending down the second overall pick of the 2009 draft, Wedge said he wanted Ackley to focus on his approach.
“I think he’s taken care of some things mentally that he needed to get beyond,” Wedge said.
Stearns said they didn’t see any adjustments by Ackley in Tacoma.
“He showed up spraying the ball all over the ballpark, and had good strike-zone recognition,” Stearns said. “I don’t know what happened up there for a year and a half, but the minute he showed up here ... I have not seen this guy struggle.
“He has a good knowledge of the strike zone. He doesn’t try to do too much, (such as trying to) pull the ball in the air. A lot of players get themselves out by wanting to hit the long ball like this, and he didn’t do any of that. He was on the line, using the whole field.”
As for Gutierrez, Wedge is considerably frustrated.
Gutierrez came off the 60-day DL on Saturday and hit a home run and double. After having problems running in the outfield Tuesday afternoon, he was placed on the 15-day DL. He has five homers in 60 at-bats this season.
But Gutierrez cannot seem to stay on the field. The 30-year-old has played just 150 games since 2011.
“Disappointed, like we all are,” Wedge said. “Nobody is more disappointed than he is. I’m sure the frustration is off the charts for him. It is what it is. Get back to work on it, and go from there.”
A day game Wednesday wraps the two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Safeco Field. Pittsburgh right-hander Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 3.07 ERA) faces right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-4, 2.71) at 12:40 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners