SEATTLE — The roster shuffling for the Seattle Mariners continued on Monday. The team made two changes, selecting the contract of infielder Nick Franklin and recalling pitcher Hector Noesi from Class AAA Tacoma. Second baseman Dustin Ackley and left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge were optioned to Tacoma.
The callup of the hot-hitting Franklin and demotion of the slumping Ackley was the big news.
Franklin made his big league debut in the eighth inning of Monday’s game against the Padres as a defensive replacement, fielding two ground balls cleanly. He led off the eighth by drawing a walk.
“I wanted to get him in there and get him a few innings defensively,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “You knew the first ground ball was going to go right to him, which it did. He put up a good at-bat. We’ll have him in there tomorrow.”
Franklin has certainly earned the callup. He was hitting .325 (46-for-142) in Tacoma with a .440 on-base percentage with a .472 slugging percentage. He has nine doubles and four homers and 20 RBI.
“I see him playing more second base,” Wedge said. “I want to take a look at him. It’s a great opportunity to take a look at him. We’ll let him get settled today and start him tomorrow.”
To make room for Franklin on the 40-man roster, outfielder Francisco Martinez was designated for assignment. Martinez was part of a group of players the Tigers traded to Seattle in exchange for Doug Fister and David Pauley in a deal on July 30, 2011. Of that group, only left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush is with the Mariners. Martinez, who was once a highly-regarded third base prospect, and outfielder Casper Wells have been designated for assignment, while reliever Chance Ruffin is being converted to a starter in Class AA Jackson.
The demotion of Ackley became more likely with each failed at-bat.
With an 0-for-5 game in Sunday’s 13-inning win over the Rangers, Ackley was hitless in his last 22 plate appearances. After raising his batting average up to .255 on May 4, Ackley struggled, getting just six hits in his next 62 plate appearances and posting a batting average of .111 (6-for-54) with just one extra base hit.
His average had fallen to .205 (32-for-156) with a .266 on-base percentage and a .250 slugging percentage.
Ackley will go to Tacoma to try and figure out what has gone wrong.
“It was just time,” Wedge said. “Obviously, we fought for the guy for quite a period of time now and wanted to make it work up here and not have to do that. Ultimately, we couldn’t take it any further.”
Wedge believes much of Ackley’s issues are not physical.
“With Ack, it’s more of a mental approach or a mindset up there, it’s not his swing anymore,” Wedge said. “He’s in a pretty good position fundamentally. Listen, he’s going to be a good hitter and he’s going to be a good player. He’s done a hell of a job at second base. There’s a lot there to like. He’s a good kid. He competes. He just needs to get over some things mentally in regards to his approach. When he does that, we’ll get him back up there and I think he’ll take off.”
Ackley seems to be hitting in 0-2 and 1-2 counts constantly.
“That’s one of the examples that he needs to get beyond,” Wedge said. “Have a little more attitude in the box. It’s easier to be free and easy in the count when you can let it rip. It’s hard to be perfect in this game. You can’t go out and play this game care free if you are worried about failure. You have to go out there and let it rip.”
Wedge seemed adamant in a radio interview on Friday that sending Ackley down wasn’t an option.
“If you don’t know me by now, I’m going to be adamant till the end, while knowing where I’m at inside,” he said. “I’m going to back these guys till the end. Now, how far we are down the road, or how far I’m down that road may be different than what I’m talking to you guys about.”
General manager Jack Zduriencik said the move had to be made.
“I think it was very evident to us that what this guy needed was to take him out from under the big league bright lights if you will, take a step backward, go down and try and get your swing back, try to regain your confidence and let the pieces fall where they may,” Zduriencik said. “It’s not unusual for this to happen. We see it a lot with big league players.”
Zduriencik said Ackley took the news like a professional.
“I think he was very open to it. I think he was understanding of where we’re at,” Zduriencik said. “I said to him this was a decision that we made that we think is for your best benefit as well as the organizations benefit at this time. I think he understood that. I think there was a part of him that was very disappointed.”
The reason for the Noesi callup is the Mariners bullpen took yet another beating with the extra-inning win against Texas. Until Sunday’s eight-inning start from Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners had a run of sub-7-inning starts that had taxed the bullpen.
Luetge was a casualty of that overall fatigue.
“We had to make a move today, had to,” Wedge said. “I don’t think it’s any coincidence that our starter goes eight innings, gives up two runs and we win the game.”