PEORIA, Ariz. — These days, it isn’t just during the Mariners’ workouts that Dustin Ackley finds himself in left field. Grasping for details and updates on his new son amounts to virtual round-the-clock isolation.
“I’m always waiting for pictures or video and phone calls,” he said. “Not being there and not knowing what’s going on…if I call and miss them, it’s like, `Is something going on? What’s happening right now?’
“Anytime, I’m not hearing stuff…you always expect the worst.”
Actually, everything is going fine after a harrowing ordeal.
Ackley and his wife, Justine, were en route to Peoria (with two dogs) from their home in Michigan when, roughly midway through the trip, the couple’s first child decided to arrive some six weeks ahead of schedule.
That resulted in an emergency stop in Oklahxloma City for the birth Parson Bennett Ackley, who checked in healthy at 5 pounds, 12 ounces but in need of extra care.
“It was kind of a scare at first,” Ackley said, “because he needed to be on oxygen. His respiratory system is not (yet fully functional). He needed some oxygen.”
Conditions soon stabilized and, once Justine’s mother arrived, Ackley continued to spring training. Justine and Parson, if all goes well, could arrive, with the two dogs, by the end of the week.
“He’s finally off (oxygen) as of three days ago,” Ackley said. “He’s out of the incubator. Everything is looking good. So, hopefully…we heard the timetable is possibly Monday that he will be released from the hospital.”
Meanwhile, the wait continues.
“It’s crazy,” Ackley said. “It hasn’t really set in yet. I think when they get here, it’s going to be like, `OK, this is what it’s like to be a father.’ But right now, it’s like I’m a solo rider.
“I just go to spring training, work out, come back and there’s no one there. When the wife and kid and dogs get out, it’ll really start to set in.”
LINEUP COMING TOGETHER
The Mariners’ lineup is already starting to come into focus.
Manager Lloyd McClendon pointed to three newcomers — Seth Smith, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks — as possible fits for the No. 2 slot and said the shortstop, either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor, will likely bat ninth.
Smith and Ruggiano project as platoon partners in right field, while Weeks appears ticketed for similar duty in left field with Ackley.
“We have options,” said McClendon, who prefers to have Ackley hit lower in the order — probably eighth.
Better options than last year, when the Mariners got a combined .225/.260/.348 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) from their No. 2 hitters.
Smith has a .241/.307/.401 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 143 career games as a No. 2 hitter. His career totals are .265/.347/.453 in 865 games.
Ruggiano has a .317/.382/.455 slash in 59 games as a No. 2 hitter. His career totals: .257/.319/.431 in 398 games.
Weeks is .232/.325/.385 in 138 games when batting second. His career totals: .249/.347/.424 in 1,142 games.
The Mariners are already set at four spots: center fielder Austin Jackson will lead off, and three-through-five will be second baseman Robinson Cano, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and third baseman Kyle Seager.
CHANGE FOR HAPP
Veteran lefty J.A. Happ is pondering some changes to his repertoire.
“One of the things we’re exploring with him,” McClendon said, “is he actually has a real good change-up that he hasn’t used a lot. He’s relied on his cutter a little bit more.
“We’re trying to get him to expand on (his cutter) as well, which I think would make him even better.”
McClendon said he believes Happ can provide the Mariners with 200 innings.
“Most clubs that are successful and trying to get to the playoffs,” McClendon said, “you need at least three starters who are going to give you innings; who approach that 200-inning mark.
“I think he’s one of those guys who can give us those type of innings.”
Happ, 32, worked 158 innings last season in Toronto and has never pitched more than 166 innings in any of his eight big-league seasons.
MLB NETWORK RANKINGS
Hernandez ranks third overall behind Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw and Angels outfielder Mike Trout. Cano placed No. 10.
The rest of the Top 10 (Nos. 4-9): Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, White Sox lefty Chris Sale, Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Giants catcher Buster Posey and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.
Lefty James Paxton remains on track to test his recovery from a sore forearm, perhaps as soon as Monday, by resuming throwing activities. He suffered the injury in early February when he reached to brace himself as he fell to the ground after stumbling in an agility drill…Rain is in the forecast through Monday, which puts that day’s intrasquad game in doubt. McClendon said, “I don’t think it’s of such importance that we’d reschedule it. Most likely, we’d move on.”