When they trimmed their in-camp numbers by five today, the Seattle Mariners sent their most acclaimed rookie position player to Tacoma – second baseman Dustin Ackley.
“You can’t be surprised by anything in this game, you have to be prepared,” Ackley said. “It’s a process. I made a lot of improvements in camp, in all three areas – hitting, defense and base running.”
Along with Ackley, four other Mariners were re-assigned to minor league camp: Catcher Steven Baron, infielder Sean Kazmar, outfielder Gabe Gross and left-handed pitcher Fabio Castro.
Ackley, 23, is a confident player who was hardly overwhelmed by spring pitching. In 15 games, 26 at-bats, he hit .269 with an on-base percentage of .441.
Never miss a local story.
“He gives you a great at-bat,” manager Eric Wedge said. “You look at him up there and you can see he’s comfortable, confident.”
Starting a season in Tacoma, of course, doesn’t mean Ackley will be a Rainier long. As far as he’s concerned, any time the Mariners call, he’ll answer.
“I feel like I can play here right now, but I can get better at second base” said Ackley, who only began playing the position last year. “I can be better, but I think I could handle it now.
“Whenever they call, I’ll be ready. Like I was telling a coach today, I don’t know how I did it a year ago, when I’d never played second base. I’m a lot better now than then. What they want me to do is just get better, play more games, get more reps. I can’t be negative about being sent down. I understand,” Ackley said.
Rookie Baron was realistic.
“I stayed this long because Miguel (Olivo) was hurt, I understand that, but I got a lot of exposure, a lot more opportunity, and I’m happy with that,” Baron said. I think I showed them how much I’ve improved. I’ve come a long way as a catcher.”
Then the 20-year-old dropped the line of the day.
“I had a lot of fun in big-league camp,” he said. “It’s definitely more fun that minor league camp – there’s. unlimited food here!”