By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — An all too familiar situation provided the Mariners with a surprise Tuesday.
Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez was sent to the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. Taking his place on the roster was Dustin Ackley, recalled from Class AAA Tacoma.
Ackley was sent down to find a cure for his miserable .205 average this season. Once he landed in Tacoma, Ackley went on a torrid run. He hit .365 with eight doubles, two home runs and 14 RBI in 25 games with the Rainiers after being optioned to the minor leagues May 26.
In Tacoma he transitioned from second base to outfield. Ackley was a Gold Glove finalist at second base last season, but the emergence of Nick Franklin, who is hitting .283 with four home runs since his debut May 27, has left that position to him.
Ackley’s outfield defense was described as “adequate” by Tacoma manager John Stearns. Ackley played nine games in center field and three in left.
“Not above average right away, but I think he can move into that status, defensively,” Stearns said. “He hasn’t been out there. He played, what, 10 or 12 games for us? Not bad. We got to see him go back on a ball in the gap last night for the first time on a ball hard. I thought he took a good route. He came in well while we were on this road trip on a couple of balls.
“He basically looked like he’d played there before. But for not having been out there for awhile, I thought he made great progress while he was here in a short time on his outfield defense.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he will have “no hesitation” about putting Ackley into the outfield.
“We’re going to keep working him in the outfield, you might see him in the infield, too,” Wedge said.
After sending down the second pick of the 2009 draft, Wedge said he wanted Ackley to focus on his approach.
“I think he’s taken care of some things mentally that he needed to get beyond,” Wedge said.
Stearns liked what he saw from Ackley in Tacoma.
“He showed up spraying the ball all over the ballpark, and had good strike-zone recognition.” Stearns said. “I don’t know what happened up there for a year and a half … I have not seen this guy struggle.
“He has a good knowledge of the strike zone, he doesn’t try to do too much … A lot of players get themselves out by wanting to hit the long ball like this, and he didn’t do any of that. He was on the line, using the whole field.”
As for Gutierrez, Wedge is frustrated. Gutierrez came off the disabled list Saturday and hit a home run and double. After having problems running in the outfield Tuesday afternoon, he was placed back on the 15-day disabled list. The 30-year-old has five home runs in 60 at-bats this season.
Much like the last three seasons, Gutierrez cannot stay on the field. He’s played just 150 games since 2011.
“Disappointed, like we all are,” Wedge said about the outfielder’s latest DL stint. “Nobody is more disappointed than he is. I’m sure the frustration is off the charts for him. It is what it is. Get back to work on it and go from there.”