With all of the focus on Ichiro Suzuki (who still recorded 4 hits) returning to Japan as a Seattle Mariner to open the 2012 MLB season, Dustin Ackley stole the show and won Game MVP in the first of two overseas match-ups against the Oakland A’s.
The Game was in Tokyo Wednesday, March 28th about a week prior to every other team opening their seasons. It was the fourth time in which the Major League Baseball season has started in Japan.
Expectations are not very high for the 2012 Mariners, but former Diamond Heel standout Dustin Ackley looks primed to produce either way. Since his June 2011 debut, he has been one of the only positives in a franchise that has suffered 196 losses over the last two seasons. To finish 2011, Ackley would appear in 90 games, record 91 hits, bat .273, and play a potentially Gold Glove winning second base. I say that even though it is not his natural position when he played First at UNC. His 2011 fielding percentage alone (.984), combined with only 6 errors committed on 375 attempts still made him a sure thing starting 2012 at 2nd and heading into Spring Training.
Lucky for Mariner fans, the former first baseman’s transition hasn’t appeared to be as rough as most may have thought or anticipated. Really, looking back it should have never been a doubt Ackley could make the move. His tough, gritty, hard-working attitude and style of baseball all had to factor in Seattle’s decision to take a chance switching his position.
He was moved immediately to second right after being drafted, so the intentions were always clear from the start as to what Seattle wanted from Ackley. More than likely to get him in a position that would make him more valuable to the Big League roster long-term if he could excel and make his way up.
Now, the Winston-Salem, NC native finds himself atop the Seattle lineup batting in the two spot and ready to show he was well worth the Number 2 pick overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft .
Starting with his teams Opening Day, extra inning game against the Oakland Athletics, Dustin showed he will play a major role in any success the 2012 Mariners plan on having. In 5 at-bats he recorded 2 hits, one being a solo home run in the fourth inning, along with 2 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. The former Heels go-ahead single in the eleventh inning would be one of two runs the Mariners would score to break the tie in extra’s and win 3-1.
The combination of 1B Justin Smoak, LF Mike Carp, 2B Ackley, and the newly acquired DH/C Jesus Montero should have Mariner fans excited about the future at the least. With all of them being prized prospects at one time or another and have each produced coming up through the minors consistently, I see no reason why they can’t surprise some people this season. Along with an ace like Felix Hernandez pitching every 3-5 days, Seattle must feel like they can at least win every time he steps on the mound.
One more positive I must point out is that each of the above mentioned players are all under the age of 26. If this core group can accumulate time and games together over the next few seasons, the AL West just got even deeper.
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