While managing in Fall League, Ted Simmons keeps an eye on Mariners prospects

AFTERNOON UPDATE:

I just got a text from Pedro Grifol, the Mariners’ minor league director, about pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen, who came out of Tuesday night’s Arizona Fall League game after he was hit on his left foot by a line drive. “Tom is fine,” Grifol writes. “Little sore but was moving around well. Couple of days.”

Also, in answer to the question below from Herald Free, the Mariners have not yet replaced pro scouting director Carmen Fusco.

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Ted Simmons has had a great week baseball-wise.

The Seattle Mariners hired him as a senior advisor under general manager Jack Zduriencik. When the Hall of Fame veterans committee announced its ballot for induction, Simmons was among those on it (as was former Mariner GM Pat Gillick). And, Tuesday night in Peoria, Ariz., Simmons’ Peoria Saguaros rallied with three runs in the ninth inning of their Arizona Fall League game to beat the Peoria Javelinas 6-4.

Simmons, a 61-year-old former All-Star catcher and baseball executive, found himself in an interesting spot Tuesday night. He’s managing the Saguaros but, because of his new job, had a keen interest in the Mariners prospects in the other dugout.

“I guess I’m already on the clock (with the Mariners), but I’m not going to abandon the Arizona Fall League or leave this club,” he said. “I’ve got this duty until next week (when the league ends).”

Simmons was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 1967, played 21 big-league seasons with the Cards, Brewers and Braves, and was an eight-time All-Star at catcher. After retiring as a player in 1988, he has remained in baseball in nearly every front-office capacity, including GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1993. Zduriencik was his scouting director with the Pirates.

“I’ve known Jack for over 25 years. We go way, way back,” Simmons said. “When he was in Milwaukee drafting all those kids and building their program over there in the scouting department, I went there three years ago as the bench coach for Ned Yost. We’ve been friends for so long and know each other so well that this is about as good a fit as there is on the face of the earth as far as I’m concerned.”

Simmons will assist Zduriencik with anything the boss wants.

“Whatever, whenever,” he said. “I might see amateur players pre-draft or I could see free-agent guys in the spring. I’ll be here at spring training with Jack. I’ll be doing any number of things. My experience is such that I’ve done anything. There are very few ways I can’t help him.”

Simmons has gotten a good look at the Mariners’ future in the Fall League, at least in terms of the players he’s been able to see across the field with the Peoria Javelinas.

Tuesday night, Dustin Ackley continued to play well, going 2-for-3 (including a double off the center-field wall, a walk and a stolen base) and handling several plays impressively in the field. Right-hander Josh Fields pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief and another reliever, Josh Lueke, allowed a hit and threw a wild pitch in the top of the ninth but still made a good impression on Simmons.

“The Ackley kid looks like he’s a hitter,” Simmons said. “And the Lueke kid looks like he’s a major league pitcher.”

A few other baseball notes this morning:

• Mariners right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen was roughed up in nearly every way Tuesday night, allowing three runs in the ninth on three hits in the Saguaros’ rally from a 4-3 deficit. Among those hits was a line drive by Eduardo Escobar that struck Wilhelmsen on his left foot. Wilhelmsen was pulled immediately but walked back to the dugout without a limp. No word yet from the Mariners on how Wilhelmsen is feeling this morning.

• Ackley played one of his better games in the field and made two nice plays to back-hand grounders up the middle and throw out the runners at first. He also made a strong relay throw from shallow right field that was right on the bag at third base, although a hair too late to get baserunner Luis Martinez.

How close is Ackley to the big leagues? Scouts say his defense has improved even in the month he’s been in Arizona at the Fall League, and there seems little doubt about his ability as a hitter. Keep in mind, however, that it’s easier to produce big numbers in Arizona because of the hard fields and dry air, although in the games I’ve watched, Ackley hasn’t gotten any cheapies. One scout told me Ackley could use another 300 or so at-bats before he’s ready for the big leagues.

• Josh Fields came into the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth, and he struck out Jared Mitchell with the big-breaking curveball that he has thrown well this fall. Fields also pitched around an error in the seventh by getting two soft grounders and a strikeout. Fields missed much of the regular season with a forearm injury and has pitched in Arizona with mixed results. That’s no surprise given his time off this year, although he has thrown well his past two outings (including 1 1/3 innings Saturday in the Rising Stars game).

• Baseball Prospectus has produced its rundown of the Mariners’ top minor league prospects and, no surprise here, pitcher Michael Pineda and second baseman Dustin Ackley are in the five-star list. BP’s overall review is this: “A couple potential impact players at the top but an overall shallow system where the talent level drops off quickly.”

• Despite multiple reports last week, the Mariners did not place a bid for Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma. John Hickey, who covered the Mariners for the former Seattle P-I and now writes for AOL Fanhouse, has that report here based on sources with connections to Japan.

• Speaking of Japanese postings, MLBTraderumors has a report that the Chiba Lotte Marines won’t decide on whether to post shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka until after the championship game in Japan on Saturday.

Los Angeles Times writer Dylan Hernandez, meanwhile, writes that Nishioka prefers the Dodgers. And if that doesn’t workout, he’d like to stay near the West Coast with the Giants, Padres or Diamondbacks. No mention of the Mariners.

• Orioles pitcher Rick VandenHurk and several players – including Mariners outfield prospect Greg Halman and former Mariner Adam Jones – on a tour of the Netherlands and Belgium. They’re hosting four baseball clinics for kids along with an auction in Amsterdam to aid KindernKankervij, a Dutch children’s cancer charity. VandenHurk and Halman are natives of the Netherlands. Others on the trip are John Baker of the Marlins, Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles and former Oriole Brady Anderson.

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