M’s send Ackley down; he’ll be back sooner rather than later

        PEORIA, Ariz. – Dustin Ackley, the second player taken in last June’s draft, won’t start the season with Seattle.

        The Mariners made that clear Tuesday when Ackley was optioned to the club’s Double-A West Tennessee roster.

        That being said, Ackley made a lot of fans when he was with the Mariners in the last three weeks or so, and it would surprise no one if the left-handed hitting former University of North Carolina star would make it to Triple-A and the majors both later this year.

        Ackley, an outfielder for the Tar Heels who wound up playing first base because of an arm injury, is being converted to second base.

        “I’m very proud of what he’s done so far,’’ general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He’s worked very hard on his defense, and he wants to be a good second baseman. It’s a position that’s good for him. He can run, he can hit and he can play defense. He will continue to get better.’’

        Zduriencik was in the stands Sunday in Tucson when Ackley, who hit over .400 in all three of his college seasons, had what the GM called “his worst at-bat,’’ striking out while never swinging the bat.

        “The next time up, he had two strikes on him and he hit a rocket,’’ Zduriencik said. “He is a gifted hitter.’’

        At the same time, Ackley is learning a new position, hitting with a wooden bat instead of a metal one, and he’s getting used to being a professional.

        “What some people don’t realize is that every single thing that happens to this guy on a baseball field is happening for the first time,’’ Zduriencik said. “And he’s doing it for the first time against Major League competition. He’s done a nice job.’’

        Manager Don Wakamatsu said Ackley is a “special talent,’’ and said that all he needs is experience.

        “To see him at second base, you’d think he’d always been a second baseman,’’ Wakamatsu said. “There are things he has to learn, but he looks like a natural.’’

        Ackley turned out to be one of five players the club optioned to West Tennessee, joining right-handed pitchers Dan Cortes, Anthony Varvaro and Ricky Orta and left-hander Edward Paredes. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.


  John Hickey is a National Baseball Writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com). PostGlobe relies on your donations.





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