By Shannon Drayer
Note: I will be having an online chat Thursday at 11:30 to wrap up some of the loose ends, look at the future and take questions. Please drop by.
And so it ends. And of course the Mariners scored 12 runs in their last game of an offensively challenged season. Let’s hope that was a sneak peek, a preview of what is to come. A lot of work to be done and we will discuss that in the coming months, but here goes on a quick wrap up.
It is hard to believe that we were in Tokyo six months ago. Kyle Seager was a day and a Mike Carp injury away from taking over at third base. Brandon League was the closer. We were concerned with Felix Hernandez’s drop in velocity. Ichiro was in right. Hisashi Iwakuma was not at full strength and got absolutely shelled in an exhibition game against a Japanese team he was very familiar with. How far have we come since then?
A jump to 75 wins is significant. It will mean more if there is another jump next year. For everything we learned about these players this year, there is still a question mark that hangs over their heads as we don’t know what happens next. This is what they are now. Can they take another step forward? Where does Michael Saunders’ sophomore offseason take him? Can Jesus Montero improve physically? Will Justin Smoak carry over what he did in September? Does Seager progress? Does Dustin Ackley figure it out? More on that below.
A lot will fall on the shoulders of Jack Zduriencik. There are needs that need to be filled externally. Help is needed in the outfield. Offense is obviously needed. Perhaps a veteran arm in the bullpen. John Jaso and Montero cannot split duties, so a catcher will most likely need to be brought in to help hold down the fort until Mike Zunino is ready.
“I know what we would like to do,” Zduriencik said on the postgame show. “Other parties have to be wiling as well. We are going to attempt to be active. I would like to shore up some things and improve on some areas. Offense is obviously one.”
Dustin Ackley will have surgery over the offseason to clean up bone spurs in his left ankle. (AP)
Zduriencik indicated that he would have more resources available this offseason than he did the past two offseasons, but pointed out that the free-agent market is not a good one this year. This we will talk about further at a later date.
Of immediate interest was some news that Zduriencik shared that shed some light on a comment Eric Wedge made recently that left some of the reporters scratching their heads.
“I have just been so proud of the way he has been able to come out here and play everyday,” Wedge said when asked if Ackley was just getting a day off on Sunday in Oakland.
Proud of him for putting on the uniform and showing up? We found that strange. Turns out it is more likely that Wedge was proud that he was playing through adversity. Zduriencik revealed that Ackley was not 100 percent this season.
“Ackley is going to have some work done this week on an ankle that has bothered him for awhile,” he said.
Ackley has been dealing with bone spurs in his left ankle. Zduriencik thought that it may have had an effect on his ability to push off at home plate and noted that Ackley was a guy who could run, which we really didn’t see as much this year.
In the clubhouse, Ackley discussed the situation with Gary Hill.
“I’ve had a bone spur problem ever since college,” he said. “It has never gotten better, kind of stayed the same, always a nagging injury. It kind of affects my workouts. Now is the time to get it taken care of.”
Ackley went on to say that he believed the rehab would take from four to eight weeks and he planned to be good to go by mid-November at the latest.
How much could have the spurs hindered his performance? Ackley said he tried to put it out of mind but most likely it did affect his on-field work.
“I think it does more than I think it does,” he admitted. “When I get out and hit the ball and start running I think adrenaline kicks in and I don’t feel anything, but sometimes day games, before games, it really hurts. Hard to get loose, hard to warm up. My right leg is definitely stronger than my left because of it, because it is hard to do workout stuff on it sometimes.”
The inability to work out with that leg was frustrating for Ackley, who said that once recovered he planned to concentrate on his lower half when he resumes working out this winter.
Ackley isn’t the only Mariner dealing with bone spurs and bone chips. Brendan Ryan is scheduled for surgery, too. For him his right elbow has been the problem since spring training.
“I am not going to be able to pick up a bat for awhile. I am having surgery tomorrow,” Ryan said. “Bone spurs in the elbow. I’ve got chips in there. It caused a lot of problems early on in spring.”
Ryan had mentioned to me off the record in Peoria that he had an issue with his elbow that would need to be cleaned up in the offseason. For the majority of the year, he wore a compression bandage on that elbow and from time to time I would see patches, most likely to deal with inflammation. Amazing that this was going on with his throwing arm.
So most of the Mariners head home Thursday. Some left Thursday, while Ackley and Ryan will stay behind for surgery and leave shortly after that. Zduriencik and Wedge will head to Arizona to check out some of the kids in fall ball. Most of the players will take a short break before resuming workouts. Ackley and Ryan will have extended breaks but most importantly, unlike last year, they should be 100 percent in spring training.