4/22/2014 12:45 A.M. ET
Hot-hitting Ackley bumped up to second in lineup
By Greg Johns and Teddy Cahill / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- After hitting seventh or eighth in the Mariners' batting order for most of the first 18 games of the season, Dustin Ackley found himself batting second on Monday against the Astros, as manager Lloyd McClendon looked to shake things up following a 1-6 road trip.
Ackley had a team-leading .279 batting average and 10 runs scored, and was tied for the most RBIs with 10 going into Monday's action, so McClendon said he just wanted to get a hotter bat higher in the order.
Shortstop Brad Miller, hitting .194 after 17 games in the No. 2 spot, was dropped to ninth.
"We've been playing with the lineup the last 3-4 days, just trying to get more production," said McClendon, who penciled in Ackley fifth for the first time in Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Marlins. "We'll see how things fall out. Hopefully he'll give us a spark."
Ackley, who has hit .345 over his last eight starts, is one of the few recent Mariners' bright spots offensively. He said the key will be not changing his approach just because he's hitting in a different spot in the order.
"The minute I start worrying about the approach I have to take for different spots in the lineup, that's when I'm only hurting myself," he said. "Whether I'm hitting first, fourth, third, ninth, whatever, I have to take the same approach I've taken the whole time since I've started feeling great at the plate. That's just something I can't get away from."
Ackley hit .304 after the All-Star break last year and carried that over to a strong spring. That is far more important to him now than where he's batting.
"It's just mentally being ready to hit from the first pitch on," he said. "If I start worrying about whether I should take these pitches, I have to work the count, stuff like that, that's not where I'm at my best. I just need to stay with the same approach. The situation will dictate a lot of that stuff, but for me it's being up there ready to hit every pitch."
Miller took the move in stride as well.
"Obviously we have to shake things up a little bit and I get that," Miller said. "Ackley has been swinging great. Get him up there and get something going. But the same thing for me. I'm still trying to do the same stuff."
Walker, Paxton hope to begin throwing this week
SEATTLE -- Injured Mariners pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are both scheduled to meet with team doctor Ed Khalfayan on Wednesday, hoping for positive news that would allow them to begin throwing later this week.
All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners' third injured starter, is scheduled to make his first Minor League rehab start on Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma if weather permits. Iwakuma has been out since the start of Spring Training with a sprained tendon in his right middle finger.
Walker, 21, was shut down last Tuesday after feeling some tightness in his recovering right shoulder as he was preparing for his third Minor League rehab start. Paxton, 25, was pulled from his start on April 8 with a strained lat muscle behind his left shoulder and is also on the 15-day disabled list.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Monday the prognosis for Paxton would be 6-8 weeks from the time of his injury until he was healthy and ready to pitch again, which would put him still 4-6 weeks away from returning.
But Paxton said he feels good in the rehab work he has done so far and is optimistic he'll be cleared to start playing catch soon.
"Once I get told I can start to throw, then we'll put together a throwing program," said Paxton, who was 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his two starts before the injury. "I'm not sure how long it's going to take. But hopefully it won't take quite that long and I'll be able to build it up pretty quickly and be back at it soon."
Walker was close to joining the big league club when he felt what the Mariners are calling "an impingement" in his shoulder. Walker said tests have shown there is only inflammation and no structural problems. But while the young right-hander says he feels much better the last few days, he acknowledges the frustration over his latest setback.
"I came off a pretty good start and was feeling really good," said Walker, the No. 6 ranked prospect in baseball by MLB.com. "All my pitches were feeling great. And then I just woke up and it just wasn't feeling right. It didn't feel normal. I didn't want to go out and push anything. I probably could have pitched, but it probably wouldn't have been the smart thing to do."
Both youngsters have just been doing rehab work since being shut down. For Paxton, the Mariners' No. 3 prospect, that has meant strengthening exercises along with stretching and massaging the lat muscle. But like any pitcher, what he really wants to do is pick up a ball and fling it to see how everything feels.
"I want to throw pretty bad right now," Paxton acknowledged. "But I'm sticking to the process and making sure we do it right."
Miller reunites with buddy Springer
SEATTLE -- While most Major League players are just learning about rookie right fielder George Springer, Mariners shortstop Brad Miller has a pretty good feel for the Astros' prize prospect.
Springer spent a month living with Miller at his family home in Orlando, Fla., this offseason and they renewed their friendship when the the two teams met Monday to start a three-game series at Safeco Field.
Springer, a first-round pick of the Astros out of the University of Connecticut in 2011, played on the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in 2010 with Miller, who was a sophomore at Clemson at the time.
The two became buddies and Springer contacted Miller over the winter about working out together in Florida.
"His sister plays softball at [the University of Central Florida], so he texted me and said, 'Hey, I'm going crazy in Connecticut with all this snow," Miller said. "'Do you want to get a place together for a couple months?' I said, 'Dude, I'm living at home. Come down.' My parents said it was fine. They love George. It just kind of worked out."
Springer was already headed to Florida for the Astros' Spring Training, so he just arrived early and hung out at the Miller's.
"Yeah, it was me, my parents and George," Miller said. "It was like my brother, with my parents just taking care of us. It was fun to have somebody to train with and hit with and do all that stuff. It worked out good."
Said Springer, "His dad and mom are outstanding in that they took me in and I hung out with Brad and his parents every day from late December until Spring Training started. I was extremely fortunate for them to open up their home to me like that. It's always great to hang out with Brad. He is a grade A guy and we had some fun together."
But Miller professed to not having any dirt on the Mariners' new rookie rival, who already has been inserted into the Astros' cleanup role.
"No, he's pretty low maintenance," Miller said. "We got along great. We both pretty much just work out, hit, hang out. Just kind of low-key. He's a great guy and obviously he's pretty talented. To see him get called up already was pretty special. It's been fun.
"I texted him when he got his debut and got his first hit and everything. We've just been talking throughout the spring and stuff. He's definitely a close friend and we get along well. It's kind of fun to see him up here. He's another one of the Team USA guys from that group that got the call, so it's pretty sweet."
Prospect Taylor homers twice for Triple-A Tacoma
Shortstop Chris Taylor hit his first two Triple-A home runs in a game shortened to seven innings by rain as Triple-A Tacoma defeated Sacramento, 8-5, on Monday.
Taylor, the Mariners' No. 8 prospect, hit his first home run in the third inning off Sacramento starter Zach Neal. On the next pitch, center fielder James Jones hit a home run of his own. It was also the first home run of the season for Jones, the Mariners' 2009 fourth-round pick.
Taylor hit his second home run in the fifth inning and doubled in his final at-bat of the night. He finished the game 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBIs.
After his big night, Taylor is hitting .364 with a .667 slugging percentage in 17 games.
• Former Mariners pitcher Hector Noesi gave up seven runs in one inning on Sunday in the Rangers' 16-2 loss to the White Sox, which was one shy of the Rangers' all-time record for most runs allowed in one frame by a pitcher. Noesi signed with Texas on April 12 after being designated for assignment by Seattle. The Mariners' record for runs in one inning by a pitcher is nine, set by Freddy Garcia in a game in 2003 and Jose Mesa in a game in 2000.
• Heading into Monday's first game of a six-game homestand, the Mariners had played the fewest home games in the Majors at five. The Braves, Cardinals and Blue Jays all had played six home games going into Monday's action.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. Brian McTaggart contributed to this report. Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.