7/22/2014 1:49 A.M. ET
Ackley's amazing heist a product of determination
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Dustin Ackley has only been playing the outfield since midseason of last year, but the former second baseman looked like a natural on Monday as he went over the left-field wall at Safeco Field to rob Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud of a home run in the sixth inning of the Mariners' 5-2 win.
"I felt something, but I didn't know if it hit off my glove or went in the web," Ackley said. "But when I came down, that's when I knew I had it in my glove. I knew something was in there."
Best catch of his outfield career? Ackley said it was at least on par with a long run and diving grab he made at the base of the wall in Houston last year on a drive to the right-center-field gap shortly after he'd converted from second base.
"For sure, it's got to be one of them," he said. "The catch I made last year in Houston, probably that one and the catch I made tonight are probably in the same ballpark."
Manager Lloyd McClendon moved Ackley from center to left field when he took over the club this year and has been pleased with the 26-year-old's progress while working with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke.
"How about that catch?" McClendon said. "I think it really goes back to the work he put in Spring Training with Andy. He really, really worked hard to improve his outfield play and he continues to work hard during the 4 o'clock hour and it's starting to show in games and that's nice to see."
The Mets came away impressed as well.
"That's pretty impressive, especially for an infielder to make that play," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "That's a real good catch. That's a tough play for a lot of guys, then you get a guy who's a second baseman, isn't he? If that ball goes out of the ballpark, that may change a lot. That may change the momentum completely. It was a great catch."
Smoak sent to Triple-A as Ramirez rejoins Mariners
SEATTLE -- The Mariners optioned first baseman Justin Smoak to Triple-A Tacoma after Monday night's 5-2 victory over the Mets to open a roster spot for right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who will be recalled and start Tuesday night's game against New York at Safeco Field.
Smoak went 0-for-3 on Monday night and is batting .208 on the season. He hit .200 (4-for-20) since being recalled from Tacoma on July 11.
"Listen, it's tough. We got three first basemen," manager Lloyd McClendon said, noting Logan Morrison and Corey Hart play there as well as utility man Willie Bloomquist. "Right now, it's just the way it is, it's tough. The numbers just don't add up. I told him just go down, play well, and hopefully he'll be back here."
Ramirez will fill a rotation spot that has been open since Taijuan Walker was sent down prior to the All-Star break.
Ramirez, 24, has gone 1-4 with a 4.58 ERA in 11 starts for Seattle in previous stints with the club this season. The youngster from Nicaragua is 2-4 with a 4.12 ERA in nine starts for Tacoma.
The Mariners haven't listed a starter yet for Wednesday's series finale with the Mets, though they've announced they'll push veteran right-handers Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez back a day to face the Orioles on Thursday and Friday at Safeco Field.
Walker pitched five innings of one-run ball for Tacoma on Friday at Reno, so he'd be available to throw on regular rest on Wednesday if the Mariners choose to recall him. Or they could opt for another spot start for long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, who went 2 2/3 innings in that role against the Twins before the All-Star break and then threw a career-high four innings of relief in Seattle's 16-inning loss to the Angels on Friday.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wanted to see how Ramirez's start goes Tuesday before determining Wednesday's starter, the presumption there being that if the bullpen is heavily taxed Tuesday it would eliminate the idea of going with Wilhelmsen and a bullpen day the following afternoon.
"We haven't decided that yet," McClendon said of the Wednesday situation. "Obviously a lot depends on how [Ramirez] does, so we'll see."
Iwakuma will start Thursday's series opener with the Orioles, with Hernandez now slated to pitch Friday, followed by Chris Young and Roenis Elias on Saturday and Sunday.
McClendon said he wants to give his starters an extra day of rest whenever possible as they maneuver through the long season and took note when Iwakuma tired earlier than usual in his Friday start in Anaheim, saying he got a little out of rhythm over the All-Star break.
"Nothing has changed," McClendon said. "I've said the same thing all year. When I've got an opportunity to give them extra days, I'll do it. One of the tell tale signs is my starter came off the break and pitched 77 pitches and was a little fatigued. So when I can do it, I'll do it.
"I think it's for the benefit of the entire staff, not just two pitchers," he said. "This is a grind. Nothing was more grueling than the series in Anaheim. This is a grind. If people think it's easy to go out there every five days and throw 110 pitches, it's tough. When you can take care of them and give them an extra day, particularly for their legs and arm, just do it. My job is to look at the whole picture, not one start for any one player. I know what we're doing is the right thing to do. It gives them extra days and keeps them sharp, keeps them strong, to go from start to finish throughout the entire season."
Wilhelmsen ready for whatever role is needed
SEATTLE -- With Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pondering another potential Tom Wilhelmsen start this week, the 30-year-old reliever said he's only worried about continuing to help his team in whatever role is needed as it hits the stretch run.
Wilhelmsen made the first start of his Major League career against the Twins on June 10, pitching 2 2/3 innings, then threw a career-high four scoreless innings of relief in Friday's 3-2, 16-inning loss to the Angels in Anaheim.
McClendon has said several times he's intrigued by Wilhelmsen's potential as a starter, though he figured that experiment wouldn't go into effect until next spring at the earliest. But with the 6-foot-6 right-hander throwing 51 pitches while allowing just one hit with four strikeouts against the Angels, he's already getting close to what the Mariners might need to stretch him into a starting role.
McClendon hasn't ruled out the idea of starting Wilhelmsen on Wednesday against the Mets in a game the Mariners have yet to announce a starter, though he's waiting to see if Wilhelmsen is needed in relief on Monday or Tuesday.
"I'll take all things into consideration," McClendon said. "He's certainly built. I've told you guys my fascination with him possibly starting. He's probably built to go five [innings] and 65-70 [pitches] now. Certainly that's a possibility, yes."
Wilhelmsen, who has posted a 2.35 ERA in 35 games this season, says he's taking everything as it comes at this point.
"I just try to keep the same routine every day," he said. "I'm a long guy that had a spot start. I don't know if that's really uncommon. This is a new position for me, but I'm just doing what I can to help my team when it's my turn to do it. If that means throwing another inning, then I'm throwing another inning."
Wilhelmsen appreciates McClendon's interest in him as a potential starter, but isn't spending a lot of time pondering that right now.
"It means the skipper is intrigued by the idea of me starting," he said. "I'm a bullpen guy right now, and we've got the best bullpen in the league, and that's what I'm trying to focus on this year. Whatever happens in the future will happen in the future. I'll cross that bridge when it comes. But it's definitely a compliment and I'm happy to do whatever I can."
Does the idea of being a starter intrigue him?
"Sure, the start the other day was a lot of fun," Wilhelmsen said. "I had a lot of fun doing that. And I do enjoy throwing multiple innings. But that being said, I also enjoy being in the bullpen and throwing one inning and shutting a team down in a crucial situation. I'm happy with both. Until something happens, I'm still part of the best bullpen in the league."
McClendon shoots down arrow controversy
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said All-Star closer Fernando Rodney won't pitch in Monday's series opener against the Mets, but that decision had nothing to do with the finish of Sunday's 6-5 setback in Anaheim when Rodney took the loss in the ninth inning after shooting an imaginary arrow toward the Angels' dugout after getting out of a tough jam in the eighth.
Rodney had pitched an inning in Saturday's 12-inning win before Sunday's attempt at a five-out save, so McClendon gave him Monday off and indicated Danny Farquhar would serve as the closer if needed.
As for the "arrow situation," McClendon said the Angels' winning rally had a lot more to do with Rodney having to face Mike Trout and Albert Pujols leading off the ninth than any perceived slight from his arrow routine.
"I heard somebody say that fired the Angels up and gave them incentive to win the game," McClendon said prior to Monday's series opener with the Mets. "That's a bunch of baloney. They understand the importance of these games as well as we do. The fact is, they had the best all-around player in the game leading off and a Hall of Famer hitting behind him. That had a lot to do with them winning the game, not Rodney's arrow shooting."
What did McClendon think of the imaginary arrow, which Rodney normally shoots into the air after he finishes off a save?
"This is a business of entertainment," McClendon said. "Players hit doubles and I don't know all the signs they do and all that [standing on second base], but everybody has celebrations in the dugout. Rodney shooting the arrow is no different. In the old days, if you didn't like it, go out and fight. They don't do that anymore."
McClendon said the loss was about baseball, not arrows.
"We lost the game. That's all that matters," he said. "We hit a line drive that was snagged for a double play. They hit two ground balls back up the middle that found a hole and they won two out of three."
You want a controversy from McClendon? The Mariners' skipper preferred to point out a checked swing by Howie Kendrick that didn't get called a strike in the seventh inning against Yoervis Medina, after which Kendrick laced a run-scoring single. He thinks the new replay system should be expanded to include checked swings.
"If you really want to talk about replays and what should be replayed, if you really think about it, that has a lot more impact than a lot of things, particularly with the game on the line," McClendon said. "We had two checked swings earlier in that series, one on [Kyle] Seager where he barely took the bat off his shoulder and it was strike three. They just need to be consistent with it and I think it cost us a ballgame yesterday."
• Robinson Cano was back in the lineup Monday after being given Sunday off to rest a sore hamstring. Cano is hitting .414 in his first 14 games in July, fourth best in the Majors.
• Saturday's game against the Orioles will be a 1:10 p.m. PT start, with the Mariners playing early to avoid conflict with the evening's Seafair Torchlight Parade in Seattle.