At the start of the season Dustin Ackley was playing well in left field. The as the months rolled by his average started to dip, and dip, and dip.
But June 31st it had dropped all the way down to .214, a poor offensive average even by his recent standards.
Most fans are aware that Corey Hart is still on the DL, working his way back to the Mariners. So too is Justin Smoak. When they are both healthy, some serious decisions will need to be made regarding the structure of this roster. Who goes? Who stays?
I don’t know if skipper Lloyd McClendon vocalized the shortness of Ackley’s leash, but since June 30th he seems to have started to turn over a new leaf.
In two July starts Ackley has gone 6-8 with 2 doubles, 1 RBI, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout. Granted, that’s about as small a sample size as one can get, but it seems somebody got Ack’s attention. And if Ackley wants to remain on the Major League roster and avoid getting DFA’d (designated for assignment), he has to keep hitting and driving that average up to a respectable number. There’s no room for sub-par outfielders on this Mariners roster, as they are now 9 games over .500 and securely in a Wild-Card spot and poised to make a run at the playoffs.
The outfield roster includes James Jones— who isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, unless it’s from first to second on a steal–, Endy Chavez, Michael Saunders— who, when healthy, is a force to be reckoned with–, and Cole Gillespie, who has shown some pop but also hasn’t stolen away the starting job from Ackley.
The question becomes: who goes when Hart and Smoak come back?
It’s a tough question to answer, especially when there are only 5 outfielders on the roster, and going the long stretch of season with only 4 outfielders would be potentially risky business, though Logan Morrison can put time in in right field.
If Ackley keeps playing well, it may very well be Gillespie sent down when Hart is set to return. Then, if Ackley continues playing well until Smoak is healthy, Smoak may find himself staying in Triple-A Tacoma for the time being.
There is nothing wrong with a little roster competition mid-season. The question remains: will Ackley be able to sustain production so that left field remains his throughout all the coming roster moves?