By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — One flicker of hope from the Mariners’ 1-5 road trip came from second baseman Dustin Ackley, who went 9-for-22 (.409) with two doubles.
When the Mariners opened their homestand Thursday at Safeco Field, Ackley was batting fifth, his highest spot in the order this season.
He was asked if he took that as affirmation that manager Eric Wedge has noticed the recent uptick, which included a five-game hitting streak going into Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.
“I think so,” Ackley said. “Any time that guys are hitting well, I think you want to get them as many at-bats as you can. I don’t know if that’s what he’s thinking or if he’s just trying to jump the lineup to maybe spark something. You really don’t know what that is, but I’m just going to take it as ‘OK, I’m moving up in the lineup.’ I feel confident.”
Wedge said the decision was partly due to Ackley’s recent success. But he said the rest was due to injuries and other roster issues, which led him to give veterans such as Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez the day off.
“I’m trying to get some of these veteran guys on track,” Wedge said. “And Morse is a physical issue (broken finger). We need to get him a day. And then you look at Ibanez not being in the lineup — going to try to get him probably a couple of days, give him a chance to work and get going a little bit.
“It’s just who we have right now. We’re dinged up. It is what it is. But we’ve got a lot of Major League players up here; they’re very capable of winning ball games and that’s the mentality that we’re going to have: Go out here and expect good things to happen.”
Ackley believes good things started happening for him even before the recent trip. Over the eight games leading to the start of this homestand he hit .400. Over the three-game series in Houston that ended the trip, he went 7-for-12 (.583). Going into Thursday night, his season average was .230.
“I feel right now as good as I have the whole season, even better so than spring training,” he said. “I’m just going to continue doing those things that I’ve been doing in the cage and BP and in the game, and hopefully they’ll keep working out.”
Saturday is Dustin Ackley Bat Night at Safeco Field.
Switch at shortstop
Wedge announced Wednesday that he was making a switch at shortstop, moving Robert Andino more regularly into the starting lineup and landing previous starter Brendan Ryan more regularly on the bench.
That was the case again Thursday on Andino’s 29th birthday.
Andino said it feels good to have that vote of confidence from his manager, but he was otherwise understated in his reaction to the promotion.
“I just go out there, and whatever I’ve got to do, I’m happy just to help the team,” he said.” I ain’t here to take nobody’s position; I’m just here to help the team.”
Andino began this homestand hitting .176, while Ryan was hitting .143.
Wedge said outfielder Michael Saunders (shoulder) could be sent to Class AAA Tacoma as early as today to begin work as designated hitter.
Meanwhile, an MRI has revealed that outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has a Grade One hamstring strain, the least severe of three levels.