8/2/2014 6:40 P.M. ET
Outfield becoming more comfortable for Ackley
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- When Dustin Ackley transitioned to the outfield at midseason last year, the biggest concerns centered around whether he had the arm to make the required long throws. And while the converted second baseman still isn't going to win many strong-arm contests, he has made big strides in that department this season.
Ackley leads the Mariners with four outfield assists, topped by a play Friday when he doubled Baltimore's Manny Machado off first base after catching a looping liner in the right-center gap in the eighth inning of the 2-1 loss.
"You don't get many of those opportunities to make throws like that, so it was one where I just made the throw and just hoped it didn't hit the runner," Ackley said. "Luckily, I got him by half a step."
Manager Lloyd McClendon says Ackley's progress is a lot more about hard work with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke than luck, however.
"He's getting better," McClendon said. "Andy has done a tremendous job with Ackley as far as his outfield play is concerned, starting in Spring Training and he continues to work hard. His throwing has really, really improved dramatically since Spring Training. So that throw yesterday didn't surprise me."
Getting a full year to work on deep throws has paid big dividends, according to Ackley.
"Just being able to long toss every day and go out and make throws every day in BP has been huge," Ackley said. "My arm has felt better this year and I've probably thrown three or four times as much as I ever have during any year. So it's proof that the more you throw and longer you throw, the better things get and the better it feels, too.
"There's a huge transition with your arm and legs playing outfield. It's a whole new world. For me, it's been good."
Taylor makes strong first impression on offense
BALTIMORE -- The Mariners have always been high on the defensive skills of young shortstop Chris Taylor, a fifth-round Draft pick out of Virginia in 2012. But one of the questions was whether he'd be able to hit at the big league level.
So far, so good in that regard, as the 23-year-old rookie is hitting .375 (9-for-24) with three doubles in his first seven games since being promoted from Triple-A Tacoma after going 2-for-4 in Saturday's 6-3 win over the Orioles.
"I feel comfortable at the plate," Taylor said. "These pitchers pound the strike zone. You have to be ready to hit. They're coming right at you."
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he's been pleased with the youngster so far, as Taylor has split time with Brad Miller.
"I like what I see," McClendon said. "He plays a pretty good shortstop, he handles himself at the plate pretty good. He has great instincts for the game. He's doing a nice job."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder produced well with the bat in the Minors as well and earned his midseason promotion by hitting .328/.397/.497 with five homers and 37 RBIs in 75 games for Tacoma this year. McClendon said he's never been concerned about that phase of Taylor's game since his arrival.
"From what I saw in Spring Training, I thought he'd be a player that handled the bat," McClendon said. "I didn't think he'd be overmatched, and he hasn't disappointed."
• Though McClendon said the Mariners likely will want to add a position player back to their 25-man roster by Aug. 18 when they go on the road to face Philadelphia in a three-game Interleague series, he's not sure utility infielder Willie Bloomquist will be ready to come off the 15-day DL by then. Bloomquist is eligible to return from a bruised right knee on Friday, but he is still rehabbing the knee in Seattle.
"We'll see," McClendon said. "My understanding is his progress is not happening as quick as they initially thought."
• The Mariners' ERA of 3.06 going into Saturday's game not only leads the American League, it would shatter the franchise low of 3.54 set in 2001 if they can maintain it through the end of the season. The last AL club with an ERA under 3.10 for a season was the 1989 World Series champion A's.