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2/17/2013 4:50 P.M. ET

Ackley won't blame bum ankle for down '12

Mariners second baseman aims to improve on offense this season

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dustin Ackley didn't have the type of 2012 season he or the Mariners expected offensively, but the young second baseman said he's worked hard over the offseason to refine his swing and get healthy.

"It's a new season, a new spring," Ackley said Sunday. "I'm ready to go. I had a full year last year under my belt, so that's always a huge part of it. So we'll see where it takes me."

Ackley declines to blame a bum left ankle for his .226 batting average last year, but he underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur the day after the season ended and some in the organization -- including trainer Rick Griffin -- believe the injury made it difficult for him to drive off his back foot at the plate.

Ackley said he's had soreness in the ankle since his college days at North Carolina, but he finally decided to have surgery after last season when it became apparent the problem was affecting his production.

"I never really thought it was an excuse because I could always play on it," said Ackley. "There are probably tons of guys out there with nagging things they probably never talk about it."

But Ackley admits the injury definitely impacted his ability to run, not to mention his preparation. So how much affect did it have on his hitting?

"It's hard to tell," he said. "When you're in the heat of the game and the adrenaline is going, you really don't feel anything. So it's hard to say if it affected it or not. When I was in there, I didn't think it affected me. Then again, it might have and I just didn't know it.

"But just the daily work and pregame and postgame workouts in the weight room, it would be hard to do things on my legs, especially my left leg," Ackley said. "My left calf was almost half the size of my right just because I couldn't really work that leg out, so that was the tough part."

But Ackley gutted out the season, admitting only now that he had a hard time loosening up for day games in particular, and played 153 games, two behind Kyle Seager's team-high for the year.

Now Ackley's working back from the bone-spur surgery and said all he's feeling now is some soreness from the adjustment to the early days of Spring Training.

"It's getting there," he said. "If I had to go out and play today, I think I could. I don't think they'd let me do that, but it's been feeling great."

Ackley kept most of his struggles to himself last year. He admits now it was by far the toughest season of his baseball career offensively, though he takes pride in improving his defensive play at second base to the point where he was a top-three finalist for an American League Gold Glove Award.

But the Mariners expect Ackley to hit. He's always been a hitter. He was the second overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and there is pressure -- both from himself and others -- to produce at a higher level. So, yeah, even though he never showed it, the low-key North Carolinian was feeling it inside.

"There were a bunch of times when I wanted to boil over, but I don't think you really can," he said. "You have to stay within yourself and keep playing games, keep day to day with everything."

Manager Eric Wedge thinks the ankle was only a small part of Ackley's struggles at the plate, but said he does expect the left-handed hitter to be more of a factor on the bases after stealing 13 bags in 16 attempts last year.

Wedge likes Ackley in the leadoff role and feels there is a lot more there than people have seen.

"I think he's very capable of stealing bases," Wedge said. "He's quick. Even with the ankle, he gets down the line as good as anybody before it started to really flare up on him. And he had a little hamstring issues we kept quiet just for competitive reasons. I think he's a guy that's going to be able to steal some bases for us."

Wedge believs Ackley's struggles should motivate the quiet competitor.

"I think after awhile as a player, you get tired of hearing about it," Wedge said. "Which is a good thing. You should get tired of hearing about it after awhile. The only way you can quiet the critics, so to speak, is to go out there and perform."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.