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Kirby Arnold | karnold@heraldnet.com
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010, 7:32 p.m.

Second baseman of the (near) future? Ackley working at it in Arizona

Nobody with the Seattle Mariners has said Dustin Ackley has seen the last of his time as an outfielder.

But if you look at the Mariners' 40-man roster, Ackley is listed as an infielder. And, if you're a bird buzzing the practice fields at the Mariners' training complex in Peoria, Ariz., these days, you'd see Ackley getting quite a workout at second base.

That's the plan for now, to give Ackley, the second overall pick in last year's draft, a heavy dose of instruction at second and see how it works out. Darrin Garner, the Mariners' minor league infield coordinator, works with Ackley daily.

"We have a nice, structured program for him and he's progressing very well at second base," said Pedro Grifol, the Mariners' minor league director.

The Mariners drafted Ackley as an outfielder but, looking ahead to what could be a fast track to the big leagues, second base is his likely landing spot. Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is signed through 2013, and with current second baseman Jose Lopez' signed only through 2010 (and all but certain not to return because his lack of range and on-base percentage concern the club), it's not so far-fetched to think Ackley will wind up at second. After his one-on-one time with Garner this winter, Ackley is expected to get most (if not all) of his playing time at second base at spring training.

While it may seem like the Mariners are taking an all-in approach with this transition, that's not quite the case yet. The Mariners already believe he can play the outfield well, but they need to know whether he can play at this level on the infield.

"We don’t know how much time he’s going to get in the outfield in spring training," Grifol said. "Obviously, he always can get better (as an outfielder), but we feel it's something he does pretty well. But we’re going to give second base a shot. He looks good, he's real athletic and he’s balanced.

"All indications are that he’s going to be able to do this. But he's going to have to take it into the game. He'll have to turn a double play with a guy bearing down on him. Hopefully all the instruction and all the work he’s putting in will carry over when the games start. We think it will, but he’s got to do it."


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