Mariners’ prospect Jackson begins season at Class Lo-A Clinton

SEATTLE — Outfielder Alex Jackson, the Seattle Mariners’ top prospect, will open the season at Lo-A Clinton after a strong spring convinced club officials that he is ready for a full-season league.

Jackson, 19, was the sixth overall pick in last year’s draft and began his pro career by batting .280 with two homers and 16 RBI in 23 games last season in the Arizona Rookie League.

The Mariners revealed their minor-league rosters Tuesday in separate announcements made by each of the four full-season affiliates: Triple-A Tacoma; Double-A Jackson, Hi-A Bakersfield and Lo-A Clinton.

Bakersfield replaced High Desert this season as the Mariners’ affiliate in the California League. All four teams open their season on Thursday.

Left-hander Danny Hultzen, the No. pick in the 2011 draft was optioned to Tacoma but placed on the disabled list. It’s a paper move — Hultzen has not encountered any setbacks in his recovery from major shoulder surgery.

Club officials opted to keep Hultzen in extended spring training to continue to build up his arm strength. He will be assigned to a full-season affiliate when deemed ready.

Weeks bats leadoff

Rickie Weeks made his Mariners debut Tuesday as designated hitter rather than as a platoon replacement in left field for Dustin Ackley against Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson.

The Mariners opted to put DH Nelson Cruz in right field and shift Justin Ruggiano to left field. Ruggiano had projected as a platoon partner in right field with Seth Smith.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said the move was not related to a sore hamstring that Weeks battled late in spring training.

Weeks confirmed his hamstring was no problem and took early work at first base, where he is emerging as a possible right-handed alternative to lefty-hitting Logan Morrison.

McClendon indicated Weeks is likely to serve often as the leadoff hitter when he plays, which shifts Austin Jackson to the No. 2 slot. Weeks often batted leadoff late in spring training.

“I like Rickie in the leadoff spot,” McClendon said. “He’s led off there quite a bit in his career. And I like Austin in the two hole because he handles the bat well. We have an opportunity to do that, and I’m going to do it.”

McClendon also said Weeks will log time in left field.

“He’s had plenty of fly balls (in workouts),” McClendon said. “He knows the speed of the game. … He’ll play some left field. He’s just not playing left field today.”

Looking back

It was 38 years ago Wednesday — April 8, 1977 — that the Mariners won their first game in franchise history. And they did it with a rousing comeback for a 7-6 victory over the California Angels at the Kingdome.

The Mariners, after losing their first two games of the season, scored twice in the ninth inning on RBI doubles by Bob Stinson and Larry Milbourne for a walk-off victory in front of 11,845.

Bill Laxton was the winning pitcher.

Short hops

Leonel Fernandez, former president of the Dominican Republic, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Stats Inc., provided this nugget: Nelson Cruz is the sixth player to change clubs after leading the majors the previous season in homers. The last? Adrian Beltre, who signed with the Mariners in 2005 after hitting 48 homers a year earlier for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Beltre hit 19 in his first season with the Mariners.

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