07/15/12 4:45 PM ET
Ackley sees progress with relaxed approach
By Josh Liebeskind / MLB.com
It finally appears one of the young batters is making the necessary adjustments, as Dustin Ackley has come out of the All-Star break looking like a different player at the plate.
Ackley, who has been having a tough time duplicating his breakout second half from last year, has started to make the hard-hitting contact that helped him have success in his rookie season. He attributes that to changes made during batting practice.
"I felt like the BPs I've taken the last week have been the better BPs I've taken," Ackley said. "For me, it's just been a matter of taking my BP swing into the game. I feel like when I'm in BP taking good swings, then I'll get in the game and everything will speed up. I'll be going after the ball too fast and too hard and I'll be getting out of position to hit the baseball.
"I think that's just a matter of letting that comfort and that relaxation set in, and that's the way I've felt the past two days. Not trying to make it happen, I'm trying to let it happen. Not trying to get a hit, or do this, just barrel the ball and see what happens."
Ackley has just one hit in two games since the All-Star break, but he has been the victim of ill-placed line drives and hard outs. Still, those at-bats are giving him confidence, which in turn alleviates the pressure when he's at the plate. Wedge said that translates into a more confident and controlled swing, which gives Ackley a better chance at success than the violent swing that was plaguing him during the first half.
"When you go through some of the things these young people have gone through, it really forces you to analyze everything that you're doing," Wedge said. "Which ultimately you come out the other end that much better, that much wiser, with a much better feel for your swing."
Safeco Field celebrates 13-year anniversary
SEATTLE -- It doesn't seem that long ago the Mariners were playing in the Kingdome, home to many memorable moments, such as Edgar Martinez's famed double in the 1995 American League Division Series to beat the Yankees. But the Mariners have since opened the doors to Safeco Field, which has seen historic moments of its own.
Sunday marked the 13th anniversary of the opening of Safeco, when the Mariners hosted the Padres. Many former players that come back to visit marvel at the Mariners new home, and praise its beauty. Manager Eric Wedge is no different.
"I love this ballpark," he said. "I loved it when I came in here as a visitor and I love it even more being here at home. There's a lot of energy in the ballpark, the fans are great, are supportive. I look forward to coming to the ballpark every day."
The Mariners are 569-493 (.536) all-time at Safeco, including the historic 116-win season in 2001 that set the mark for most victories by an American League team in a season.
Wedge likes new look at top of lineup
SEATTLE -- Hoping to kick-start his struggling offense, Mariners manager Eric Wedge reinserted Dustin Ackley at the top of the lineup and put veteran Ichiro Suzuki into a new role, hitting second. In the fourth game of the experiment, Wedge got the results he wanted.
Saturday evening against the Rangers, Ackley led off with a lengthy at-bat that ended in a walk. With the middle infield pinched toward the second base in hopes of a double play, Ichiro grounded a ball through the right side to put runners on the corners with no outs.
"That hole then opened there, Ichiro being able to find it," Wedge said. "Boom, you wake up and it's first and third, nobody out, and you've got something going and you put pressure on your starter right there.
"I like Ackley up there, with Ichi in the two-hole, that type of situation opens up holes, or if we get action on the bases, it opens other holes, especially up the middle. With the way Ichi hits the ball, I think it's going to help him."
Ackley has put up some of his better numbers this season in the leadoff role, hitting .258 with three home runs, 15 RBIs and 14 walks in 30 games.
Franklin Gutierrez (concussion) continues to make progress as he slowly ramps up his baseball activity and manager Eric Wedge hopes he can get out on a rehab assignment after the upcoming road trip to Kansas City.
Wedge said Jesus Montero, who has been in the lineup only as a designated hitter since suffering a mild concussion just before the All-Star break, should hopefully be back behind the plate against the Royals this week.
Mike Carp, who is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, continued a successful rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday, going 2-for-4 with five RBIs. Carp has played only as a designated hitter thus far, but was slated to start at first base Sunday.
Josh Liebeskind is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.