Encouraging signs as the Mariners head into September

Aug 30, 2012, 11:01 PM | Updated: Aug 31, 2012, 10:30 am

By Shannon Drayer

Now the fun begins. The Mariners will finish their second straight winning month and welcome in September, which brings (along with three days of October) 30 games, 23 of which are against teams with winning records. A final exam for the 2012 Mariners, if you will.

With the addition of the second wild card this year, September will be ridiculously competitive compared to the past. The Mariners will, for the most part, be facing teams that are fighting for the postseason. It will be a better measure of where they are as opposed to years past when they faced a significant number of rookies in the final month. September will mean more, and the Mariners will get more, out of their final 30 games.

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Extra work and mechanical adjustments are paying off for Dustin Ackley. (AP)

Something that has been good to see lately is that it looks like Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley have a good chance to finish strong. They are just one year removed from their call-ups and their first exposure to the physical and mental demands of playing at this level, and neither look like they are anywhere close to hitting a wall.

Seager has been steady all year and Ackley appears to be getting stronger. Eric Wedge acknowledged this in his pregame conversation with the reporters in Minneapolis Thursday morning. It is no wonder as Ackley has been putting in a tremendous amount of work. He is one of the toughest players to track down before a game because he has very little idle time. For the most part he is in the cage or in the weight room and the work appears to be paying off.

In addition to becoming stronger, Ackley has committed to a more aggressive approach at the plate. He also has made an adjustment with his swing.

“I’ve definitely widened out my stance in the last couple of weeks,” he told me. “I think the biggest problem I have had the whole year is not using my legs. I feel like when I was narrow I was all over the place with my strides and I was not able to use my legs a lot, and with the wide stance now, I am trying to focus on using my legs more and it has worked out better.”

He is giving himself a better base and as a result you are seeing him step in the bucket less and less. This much better suits what he wants to do at the plate. For more on that, and why Ackley claims he wants to hit a home run each at bat, you can listen to a portion of my conversation with him from “Beyond the Baselines” here.

Another player I am interested in watching the final month of the season is Trayvon Robinson. He has almost matched his walk total from last year with almost 60 fewer plate appearances. His strikeouts are down, and his stolen bases and on-base percentage are up. He looks like a different player offensively.

He has told me his mindset has changed. His goal is to just get on base and go from there. Last year he had every appearance of a guy who saw himself as a slugger. He is not. What he is doing now plays to his strengths and if he can continue doing what he is doing, he all of a sudden is a much more interesting player. A player the Mariners could have a need for. He will continue to get a good look.

Also getting a look will be the September call-ups. Wedge said that a couple will come up Sept. 1 while most will come up after the Rainiers’ final game Sept. 3. Last year, Wedge chose not to bring up players for exposure to the big leagues only. He wanted guys who were going to play. I asked if this would be the case this year and he said no. There most likely would be a few guys who were up primarily to see what the big leagues were all about.

What I didn’t ask is if we would see anyone from Double-A. I think there is a chance we could see Mike Zunino, who has shown no sign of slowing down since his promotion to Double-A. He will get an invitation to big league spring training next year so why not bring him up for a look first? We shall see.

For now, bring on the Angels.

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Encouraging signs as the Mariners head into September