Dustin Ackley is on the bench for the second straight day. With essentially four "starting" outfielders, Robby Thompson is trying to find at-bats and playing time for them all. It appears Ackley could be the odd man out more often than not when it comes to playing time.
"When you talk about the guys we throw out in the corners spots, for me and us as a staff you throw out your best center fielder out there to cover as much ground as possible," acting manager Robby Thompson said. "Ack is kind of in transition from the infield to the outfield. We want to get him left field too. I talked with him, he understands. I wanted to let him know, 'hey, you aren't going to be forgotten. You are going to play. And he said, 'hey, I get it. I get it. ' We'll mix and match these things. We'll have to still keep an eye on Morse. Obviously, he feels back in there today. And if he feels good enough tomorrow with the leg, he'll be back in there tomorrow against the lefty."
It's an interesting situation for Ackley. He's trying to learn a position, but his playing time will decrease. In a normal situation, Ackley would be sent to Triple A Tacoma. There's a good chance he'd still be in Tacoma learning and playing every day if not for the ultra-fragile Franklin Gutierrez. Yes, Morse and Ibanez aren't a part of the future and still playing, while Ackley still is supposed to be. I get that. But the Mariners are also trying to win games and put out a competitive product. But if this is a situation that is going to continue, where Ackley plays twice a week, then he should be sent to Triple A to play every day. As has been mentioned before, doing this transition at the big league level is anything but ideal. When the Royals converted Alex Gordon from third base to left field in 2010, he played 75 games in Triple A.
It's obvious that Ackley is far from comfortable in the outfield. He's been serviceable, but there is a hesitancy that comes from lack of experience. Hi arm has been a glaring weakness. Ackley has never had a strong arm. It's one of the reasons the Mariners converted him to second base after drafting him. But he's been trying to improve that.
"He's been playing a lot of long toss trying to strengthen it," he said. "But sometimes you can only get so much out of that. Sometimes and arm is what an arm is. What he needs to work on is trying to stop a runner from advancing with his legs, meaning come in and get the ball as hard as he possibly can. Charge that thing and have that third base coach think he's getting to the ball quickly. You see Coco Crisp does that very well, but Coco's been out there a number of years. His arm is a little short out there, but there's ways he can make it bettter."
It also goes to fundamentals. Ackley isn't comfortable enough to really position the lower half of his body and use forward momentum to add to his throws. Michael Saunders offered a great example of it in the throw out of Brandon Snyder in the extra innings loss to Boston.
"He's thinking, 'let's catch this first,'" Thompson said.