Mariners pass test; is Dustin Ackley arrival next?

Jun 13, 2011, 12:00 AM | Updated: 10:31 am
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Miguel Olivo, right, is congratulated by Greg Halman after hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning. (AP)

The Mariners have certainly had better runs this season – at least record-wise – than the 3-4 road trip completed today in Detroit, but make no mistake, this one was big.

There were still the familiar offensive struggles. Left field and a good part of the DH role were handed over to rookies. Your lockdown setup man fell apart. Ichiro sat down.

But Ichiro took his day off gracefully and came back and squared up a few pitches. The rookies showed some rookiness but held their own and contributed to the three wins. Jamey Wright struggled but Chris Ray looks ready to help. The team adapted and did so against two teams that were heating up. I don’t know how many times in the last month I have said the words “This will be a test for the Mariners”, but I didn’t need to today. Eric Wedge did instead.

“I’d really like to get this one today,” he told the media in the visiting manager’s office before the game. “You always want to win, but this is really a separator for the road trip.”

Well it appears they passed the test.

Wedge said something else today that caught my ear. When asked on the pregame show with Rick Rizzs if he saw signs from Ichiro last night that he was coming out of his slump, Wedge said he had. He then said this:

“With what we have been doing, if we can get him going, potentially (Chone) Figgins and a few of the other guys, we’ve got a chance to make a run at this.”

Not “we are taking things day by day”, or “it is a process”, or “focus on today and let the rest take care of itself.”

No, Wedge is looking beyond a year of evaluation or rebuild. He’s looking at the possibility of an interesting September in Seattle this year.

There are hurdles in the way but the thinking now has to be what can they do to augment their chances to win without hurting their future?

ackley
Dustin Ackley

Of course one of the biggest questions is how does Dustin Ackley fit into the current picture? There was quite a stir on Twitter and the blogosphere today when the lineup for the Rainiers came out and Ackley’s name was not on it. Many were quick to point out that Ackley had not had a day off this season and Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto went so far as to tweet that scouts had told him that Ackely had looked fatigued in recent days.

It most likely was just a day off but we are getting closer to the day when he gets called up. Preparations are being made now. How so you might ask? Well one of the biggest hurdles at this time appears to be Adam Kennedy. Kennedy has been a big part of the turnaround and when Ackley arrives he will lose his everyday position. He will not lose his playing time however.

When Ackley comes up I would expect Wedge to not play him every day, but play him something closer to five out of seven games. Wedge believes that rookies benefit from extra days off and also that they need to be protected at times. On those days off Kennedy can play second. I would also expect Ackley to get time at DH, days he doesn’t have to worry about fielding. Again, Kennedy can play second on those days.

And the rest of the days when Ackley is at second? Well, Kennedy has been taking a lot of early work at third base lately and I am told that the option of getting at least some playing time there is being looked at.

Conversations about the need to play the younger players have already been had with Jack Cust and I suspect the same has been done at least to some extent with Chone Figgins. The question now is when will the move be made?

I have said all along that everything will have to be just right for both Ackley and the team. Ackley may need a bit of a breather right now and Wedge may need a little more time to let the outfield situation and the three rookies settle in a little more. What we didn’t anticipate is that Ackley may come up to a team that is fighting to play in the postseason this year.

His debut was going to be fun. It could get even better.

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Mariners pass test; is Dustin Ackley arrival next?