CLEVELAND -- One player the Mariners are counting on for consistency at the plate this season is Dustin Ackley, and the young second baseman seems to be finding his groove over the past two weeks.
Ackley carried a 12-game hitting streak into Thursday's series finale against the Indians, having raised his batting average 31 points to .262 in that span.
"Right now I'm starting to feel a lot better," said the 24-year-old Ackley. "My approach the last four to five games, I've felt really great. I'm seeing pitches really well and taking some good swings. I think right now I'm as close to last year as I've been. Hopefully I can continue that."
Ackley's improvement has coincided with his move to the leadoff role, but he feels his success at the plate has to do with how he's batting, not where's he's batting.
"I think it's just a gradual progression through the year, just seeing pitches and realizing what guys are doing to you," he said. "You're seeing the same pitchers over and over again, so you're kind of adjusting back to those guys. It's all a game of adjustments, and I've made some good ones here the past week or so that have really helped me out."
Manager Eric Wedge sounds committed to keeping the youngster in the leadoff spot for at least the immediate future.
"I think he likes it, I think he's good at it and it's something that will definitely be an option for us moving forward, potentially for a long time to come," Wedge said. "I think he's going to settle in either at one, two or three, depending on the supporting cast, but right now I really like him in the leadoff spot.
"I think he's suited for it. He's going to get on base, he can drive the ball, he can spray the ball throughout, he can run, he's a smart player. He has a lot to offer. I like him up there."
Rookie Liddi makes first outfield start
CLEVELAND -- Alex Liddi made his first start in left field for the Mariners on Thursday, as manager Eric Wedge continued finding ways to get the rookie in the lineup.
Liddi has never played in the outfield in a professional game, but the 23-year-old Italian has been taking fly balls in left during pregame work since Spring Training. With Mike Carp's right shoulder a little sore after playing a string of games since coming off the disabled list, Wedge had Carp at designated hitter in Thursday's series finale with the Indians.
Liddi had started at third base Wednesday, but he moved into left field in the final inning as Wedge wanted to get him a look there.
"I'm a veteran now," Liddi said with a smile.
"You've got to break 'em in at some point in time," said Wedge. "No time better than the present."
Liddi has played in 31 previous Major League games, 27 of those at third base and four at first. He's also played shortstop with Triple-A Tacoma and could get some time there, as well, this season.
"The biggest thing for me is just getting in the lineup every day, no matter how," Liddi said. "Every time I get in the lineup, I'm excited."
Carp was scratched from Wednesday's game after his shoulder stiffened. He said he felt better Thursday and was hopeful to be back in the outfield Friday in Colorado.
Iwakuma getting adjusted to bullpen role
CLEVELAND -- Hisashi Iwakuma has only pitched in four of Seattle's first 39 games, receiving sporadic use as the team's long reliever. The former starter in Japan seems to be getting more adjusted to the role, and he pitched four innings of one-run ball in Wednesday's 9-3 loss.
"I can make a routine, so I'm getting used to it," Iwakuma said through translator Daisuke Sekiba. "It's better each time."
Iwakuma never pitched in relief in Japan, where he was one of the premier starters over the past decade. His history as a starter has him ready to pitch more, if needed.
"I just only pitched four innings, but I feel stronger every time," he said. "I can pitch four, five, six more innings. If I have a chance, I'd like to pitch more innings than I did this time."
But manager Eric Wedge was pleased with what he saw from the 30-year-old, whose ERA is now down to 5.25 after a rough start.
"He saved our bullpen, gave us four strong innings, only gave up the run on the solo shot, threw the ball well," said Wedge. "He was still strong there even into that last inning. He was holding on to the velocity on his fastball. He hadn't been out there in about a week, but I thought he did a great job."
Hurlers ready to take their hacks in Interleague Play
CLEVELAND -- Kevin Millwood and Blake Beavan, two pitchers at the opposite end of the experience spectrum, will be among the Mariners hurlers getting their hacks in when Seattle opens Interleague Play at Colorado this weekend.
Millwood, 37, spent much of his early career in the National League and has 467 career at-bats, hitting .122 with four home runs and 27 RBIs. He'll start Friday's series opener against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Beavan, 23, has never played in an Interleague road game and will get his first professional at-bats when he starts Sunday.
"The last time I took live BP was my senior year in high school," Beavan said. "It'll be fun. I'm not going up there expecting much, but if I put the ball in play, I think I'll be happy. Hopefully I'll be bunting every time, because that would mean I'm moving guys over into scoring position."
Beavan played third base and shortstop when he wasn't pitching during his prep days in Texas and said he was a pretty good hitter, but noted that has been awhile.
Millwood said he enjoys "feeling more a part of the game" when he's allowed to hit, but his expectations are realistic.
"I'm not scared up there," Millwood said. "But my whole goal is to make sure I can get bunts down when I need to, and everything else is kind of gravy. But at the same time, you can do a lot to help yourself win a game by being able to handle the bat a little bit.
"I feel like I'm adequate. I'm not going to hit .300 or anything like that, but I can put the ball in play and possibly make things happen."
The Mariners' other starter in Colorado will be Jason Vargas on Saturday. Vargas is the Mariners' best hitting pitcher. He hit .354 with 14 doubles and five home runs as a designated hitter at Long Beach State when he wasn't pitching and has a .250 average in 56 at-bats in the Majors.
• Catcher Miguel Olivo, eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list as soon as he's ready, is expected to join the team in Colorado this weekend so he can work out with the club before getting sent out on a short Minor League rehab stint.
• The Mariners have played more games against the American League East and Central than their own division so far. The Mariners are 2-10 against the East and were 8-8 against the Central going into Thursday's series finale in Cleveland. They're 6-5 so far against the West.
• Going into Thursday's game, Kyle Seager was tied for third in the AL for RBIs in May with 14. Josh Hamilton of Texas has 20 and Brandon Inge of the A's was at 17.