Dustin Ackley is back and starting in center field tonight. He missed a couple days after suffering a sprained thumb in Saturday’s loss to the Cubs.
Ackley has his left thumb taped heavily, and will wear that during the game.
“It feels good,” he said. “I went and hit in the cage and everything felt pretty good. If it was hindering me in any way, I think it would affect my performance and they would shut me down. It felt fine.”
Ackley didn’t play in Sunday’s game followed by the off day on Monday.
“Those two days were huge just to rest it and get the swelling out,” Ackley said. “It’s still a little sore. But it’s fine enough to play.”
It helps that the sprain is on the left hand, which is Ackley’s top hand when he hits.
“I think the top hand is a little less active than the thumb on the bottom hand,” he said. “That helps.”
As for the play that he suffered the injury on – diving forward on a low liner and rolling over on his glove – Ackley believes he’s learned something from it and would do a few things differently.
“I think you can just keep your thumb up is all you can do,” he said. “I guess it’s something you can’t think about when you are going for a ball. But it’s something you have to be conscious about now since I’ve down it.”
Mostly it’s a lack of game reps and knowledge. There aren’t many situations where Ackley would have needed to dive forward playing second base. It will get better. With each game, he’s seeing something new in the outfield.
“It makes me better for it,” Ackley said. “Hopefully, I’m learning from my mistakes and I think it’s going to help me out.”
Ackley has spent a lot of time talking to Michael Saunders during batting practice and other times about center field.
“It was just about where to be and how to get reads on balls and how stadiums are different than the minor leagues because they don’t have the big stands behind home plate,” Ackley said. “As I guy still learning to play outfield, I think it’s important to play a little deeper than I normally would so I can come in on balls as opposed to going back on balls.”
Because the ball carries so well in Arlington, particularly to right-center, the outfield here plays smaller, which helps Ackley.
Ackley is also going to look at how balls hit on the ground roll on the outfield grass. Because the consistency of the grass and how it bounces a long is different from stadium to stadium.
“Sometimes the ball snakes or does different things,” he said.
Another issue could be the swirling wins. The wind always blows here, and never seems to blow in a consistent direction.
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ other injured outfielder, Saunders, is recovering from a nasty gash on the tip of the middle finger of his throwing hand. Saunders is progressing. He is wearing a protective sleeve over this finger. He did play catch to see if he’s available for defense. It went as expected.
“The farther I got back, I felt it and had to stay on top of the ball a little bit,” he said.
Saunders said the swelling still needs to go down. But it’s getting better. He will take batting practice today.
“Over the last two or three days, there’s been a noticeable difference in the healing process,” he said.
Wedge said he isn’t sure Saunders’ availability past pinch running tonight.
Michael Morse was doing some pregame agility work. He comes off the disabled list on Friday in Cincinnati. Wedge is uncertain whether or not they will send him out on a rehab assignment. Though it seems like a good idea. Once Morse comes back, they will have to make a roster decision. They could very well Saunders to Triple A. It seems like they are reluctant to let go of Endy Chavez.
If Tom Wilhelmsen has a couple more solid outings as a set-up man, Wedge will likely re-insert him into the closing role soon.
“He’s been much more consistent and much more like his old self,” Wedge said.
Ideally, Wedge would like to give Wihelmsen a save situation with a clean inning and a little cushion. But he knows he can’t sit and wait for it.
“It’s tough to control that,” Wedge said. “You just want to try and put him in a good position. But sometimes the game doesn’t let you do that.”