By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SAN DIEGO — Dustin Ackley looked back at home plate umpire Mark Carlson for a minute — a look that said he didn’t agree with called strike three on the sinker on the outside corner.
Ackley didn’t put up an argument, though he may have had one based on the replays of the pitch. Instead, he slowly walked back to the dugout following another strikeout in a half season filled with too many of them.
Ackley finished Sunday’s loss to San Diego 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. His batting average has sunk to .243 on the season and he looks like he’s fighting his swing and himself at the plate. Basically, he looks nothing like the sweet-swinging, hard-hitting prospect the Mariners called up midway last season.
After hitting .273 with a .348 on-base percentage and a .417 slugging percentage in 90 games last season for the Mariners, much was expected of Ackley.
At the moment, he is falling well short of those lofty expectations. Besides his sub .250 batting average, his on-base percentage (.319) is down slightly and his slugging percentage (.338) has declined also.
“I still think it’s more about his approach and mindset,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “Recognizing what they’re doing to him. He’s going to have to make some adjustments. I know he’s in the process of trying to do that.”
Ackley went 4-21 on the road trip with six strikeouts. For the month of June, he has 16 hits in 73 at-bats with 23 strikeouts and just two extra base hits — a pair of doubles.
The strikeouts are a little surprising and alarming.
This season he’s already struck out 66 times in 274 at-bats and 69 games. Last season, he struck out 79 times in 90 games and 333 at-bats.
“He’s not going to be a guy that’s going to strike out like he is now,” Wedge said. “He just has too much barrel to the ball, his hands are good. They’re pitching him tough. He had a good break-in year last year and they’re pitching him tough. He just has to make that adjustment and take it away from them.”
To his credit, Ackley has yet to let the struggles lead to any outburst or affect him in the field. He’s maintained the same cool attitude, but it hasn’t been enjoyable not hitting.
“I know he’s frustrated right now,’ Wedge said. “He’s going to be fine. He needs to recognize what’s been going on for a period of time, and take that away from the opposition. That’s what he has to do. We’ll help him get there.”
Akerfelds passes away
The Padres received some sad news before game time when they were informed that bullpen coach Darrell Akerfelds lost his 19-month battle with pancreatic cancer and passed away at the age of 50 at the Cancer Center of America in Phoenix. He had been diagnosed with the disease in December of 2010. He remained active as the Padres bullpen coach for all of 2011, while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“Ak was an invaluable member of the Padres coaching staff,” Padres manager Bud Black said in a statement. “He brought a tireless work ethic and compassion for baseball to the ballpark everyday.”
Akerfelds was taken with the seventh overall pick of the 1983 major league draft by the Mariners out of the University of Arkansas. He pitched one year in the Mariners’ organization, going 5-3 in Class A before being traded with pitcher Bill Caudill to the Oakland A’s for pitcher Dave Beard and catcher Bob Kearney.
Over 12 seasons, Akerfelds made 125 appearances in the big leagues.
Reliever Charlie Furbush threw two perfect innings, while striking out two batters. Furbush has recorded at least one strikeout in his last 16 appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run since May 15. … Ichiro Suzuki has a seven game hit streak against the Padres and is hitting .400 (12-for-30) over that span. For his career he’s a .344 (99-for-288) hitter against the Padres. … Kyle Seager didn’t get the start on Sunday because of a sore left calf muscle, stemming from a foul ball off the leg on Saturday night. Seager did come in and pinch hit in the eighth inning and doubled to left. … Hector Noesi had two hits on the day as Mariners pitchers went 4-for-14 on the road trip.