By Shannon Drayer
It was somewhat disappointing not to see Dustin Ackley’s name in the lineup on Wednesday.
Tuesday would have been a push with Ackley arriving at the stadium about an hour and a half before the start of the game, but I think most of us expected to see him somewhere in the lineup the next day. Eric Wedge wanted Ackley to get more than a good night’s sleep before his return to the starting lineup, however.
“I thought about it long and hard,” Wedge said before the game. “I just didn’t want to send him out there his first day (back) in the big leagues, day game after a night game, not really doing anything on the field pregame so he doesn’t get a chance to get the reps here, which he’s never really done here.”
That’s true. Despite being up for the last two seasons, all of Ackley’s pregame work has been taken in the infield. Before he was sent down Wedge told me they flirted with the idea of having him take some fly balls in the outfield during batting practice but decided against it as they wanted him to focus solely on second base while at the big-league level.
“I just felt it would be pushing a bad play,” Wedge said, “so I’ve already talked to him about it and we’ll give him a chance to watch our game, maybe help us late and then we’ll get him in here after that. I just want him to have a chance to work out here before we send him out there.”
He will have that opportunity Friday against the Cubs. He is more than ready to go – rested, refreshed and repositioned after the trip to Tacoma.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Ackley told me before Wednesday’s game. “I went down there, I was playing second, working on hitting and then all of a sudden it was change of positions again. It was definitely an exciting thing having success at the plate and then learning the outfield again. I think it is a challenge I am ready for.”
Ackley said that he didn’t change things too much mechanically at the plate. He switched things up with his hands a bit but he felt the swing is not what needed reworking in Tacoma. His first priority was to get his mind right.
“I think just mentally clear everything that had been going on in the past with the failures and the struggles up here I have had,” he said after giving an enormous sigh at the memory of where he was a month ago. “I think that was really the biggest thing, just go out there and expecting to get hits, to do great things. That’s something I hadn’t done. I was more worried about what the team was doing. How I was doing, what pitches to swing at, what pitches not to swing at. Just go up there and see the ball; that is something I think I got away from.”
Early success helped him get into the right mindset.
“The second game I got like five hits, we scored a lot of runs. It was one of those times where I really needed that,” he said. “It really kind of boosts your confidence. Gets you back on track. From there it took off, the team was winning and having fun. Getting back to that was important, too.”
As for the move to the outfield, that has been an adjustment. Contrary to popular belief he has not played there very much. Sixteen games in college, an offseason in the Cape Cod League and one season of fall ball does not exactly make him an outfielder. He’s not starting from scratch, however, either.
“I’ve been out there a little bit so I kind of know what is going on so it is not really that crazy to me,” Ackley said, “but it was kind of a little bit of an adjustment from the standpoint of getting my body right and running that extra in the outfield and making that throw, but it was good.”
On Friday he will get the opportunity to see fly balls in the outfield during batting practice. After that, it’s game on. We will find out just what a month in Triple-A has done for Dustin Ackley.