McClendon says Ackley targeted for left field
Lloyd McClendon doesn’t mince words once he has his mind set on something.
So while the new skipper is just getting to know his new personnel with the Mariners, he’s not shy to share his thoughts once he’s ready. As when asked Friday whether Dustin Ackley was in the hunt for the center field job, McClendon replied:
“I doubt it. He’ll probably be in left field the majority of time.”
Why is he best suited for left field?
“Because that’s where I want him,” said McClendon.
The decision most likely has to do with Ackley’s throwing arm, which isn’t his strong suit. He did start 46 games in center last year after transitioning from second base at midseason, with eight starts in left. But with time now in Spring Training to work more on the outfield, his immediate future appears to be in left.
McClendon likes Corey Hart in right field, assuming he can stay healthy coming off his pair of microfacture knee surgeries. He indicated Logan Morrison would get some work in left and right field later in camp, though he’s currently spending time only at first base coming off some knee issues of his own.
As for center? The skipper noted that Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero are capable of playing all three outfield positions, as can veterans Willie Bloomquist and Endy Chavez. It would appear Saunders and Almonte are the leading contenders there, though McClendon didn’t list any pecking order.
He did mention young Xavier Avery, acquired last August from the Orioles in the Michael Morse trade, as another contender along with Romero, who offers a needed right-handed bat. Hart and Bloomquist are the only other right-handed hitters in that group, while Almonte is a switch-hitter.
Hart thus looms as a key figure this spring as he works back from his knee issues. And so far, so good, with the 32-year-old participating in all but sliding drills, while also holding back in some of the more aggressive defensive work.
“He’s doing exactly what we want him to do,” McClendon said. “I don’t consider him limited. I know he’d like to do more, but we’ll keep progressing and moving forward with him. It’s smart to take the cautious road with him. He’s moving great. He can sprint well. Obviously being a big guy he’s a little tender moving side to side right now, but as we progress I think that will get better as well.”