Results tagged ‘ Dustin Ackley ’

Felix taking next step as face of franchise


Felix Hernandez chats with Mariners broadcaster Dave Sims during FanFest, then works with a young fan in the bullpen (below). Photos by Ben VanHouten/Mariners.

Two interesting observations from the weekend’s FanFest at Safeco Field, when 12,298 fans enjoyed the chance to meet some Mariners and take their own shots at running the bases, throwing in the bullpen and catching fly balls in the outfield.

One, the Mariners were smart to play up their promising future by inviting four of their top prospects to the event. Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda figure to be part of the very near-future at Safeco and fans enjoyed getting a chance to meet and learn more about them.

But the club also invited two young infielders — Kyle Seager and Nick Franklin — who are a little further down the pipeline as high draft choices who played Class A ball last year. That was an unusual move for a FanFest, but both showed up as bright and confident youngsters who relished the opportunity.

FelixBullpenFan.jpgI’ll have more on those players later in the week, as well as the promising Pineda, so stay tuned to for those stories.

But something else worth noting was the continuing emergence of Felix Hernandez as the face of the franchise. Hernandez always has been a presence because of his ability, obviously. But at 24 and fresh off his Cy Young Award, Hernandez really seems to be gaining comfort and letting his personality emerge.

With four years remaining on his five-year, $78 million deal, Hernandez isn’t taking his money and position for granted. Instead, he’s embracing an increased leadership role and public-relations responsiblity.

This was his first FanFest appearance since ’06 and he literally lit up for the fans. If you have time, check out his Q&A fan session video. It’s really a great glimpse into his personality.

Hernandez said he understands representing the Mariners is part of his job. Clearly, he gets that there’s more to being “The King” than just pitching every fifth day.

“It’s important to me and the team, too,” he said of his offseason appearances. “We’re a family together.”

Hernandez spent part of his offseason back home in Valencia, Venezuela, but he has a full-time residence in Seattle now. That is the house where the Cy Young Trophy will sit on his mantle. That is the house where he and his wife Sandra are raising their young son and daughter.

“I love this city,” Hernandez said. “This is my home.”

For Mariners’ fans who’ve always loved players who truly adopt their town — players like Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Jamie Moyer — those have to be welcome words indeed.

Mariners well represented in Arizona Fall League finale

Lots of good stuff for the Mariners out of the Arizona Fall League on Saturday as the AFL held its championship game in Scottsdale, Ariz.

AckleyDustinMug.jpgTop prospect Dustin Ackley was named the AFL MVP prior to the title game, then went 1-for-4 and scored a run in a losing effort as the Peoria Javelinas lost a 3-2 decision to Scottsdale in the league finale.

Ackley, batting third and playing second base for Peoria, singled to left in the fourth and scored on a hustle play from second on a ball bobbled by Scottsdale’s second baseman.

He also reached in the sixth on a broken-bat grounder to first when he beat the throw with another good display of speed after the ball was briefly mishandled.

Perhaps best of all from a Mariners’ perspective, Ackley made a couple nice defensive plays, showing good range to his left as he continues adjusting to second base.

There’s little question Ackley can hit. He led the AFL with a .424 batting average and also had the top slugging percentage in the league. The fact he showed well in the field in the title game can only help his chances of earning a quick rise to the Mariners, though GM Jack Zduriencik continues saying the youngster might be best served to at least begin next season in Triple-A.

The only other Mariners’ farmhand to hit Saturday was Nate Tenbrink, who grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance in the ninth.

Three Mariners prospects pitched in relief for Peoria, with Josh Fields and Josh Lueke both throwing scoreless innings.

Tom Wilhelmsen was the third Mariner reliever and he wound up the losing pitcher after giving up two hits and a run in the fourth. After getting highly-regarded prospect Bryce Harper out to lead off the inning, Wilhelmsen gave up a pair of doubles and what turned out to be the game’s final run.

Wilhelmsen, 26, is the former Brewers draft pick who left baseball for six years before making a comeback this past year.

The 6-6 right-hander was one of 10 players the Mariners added to their 40-man roster on Friday.

Fields, the Mariners’ first-round pick in ’08, pitched a perfect seventh inning for Peoria and struck out two while throwing 95-96 mph fastballs.

Lueke, the 25-year-old reliever who came to the Mariners in the Cliff Lee trade, worked the eighth for Peoria and also was touching the 96-97 mph range. He walked his first batter, then got three straight outs, including a pair of strikeouts that included Harper on a change-up.

Lueke also was just added to the 40-man roster, which protects players from being claimed by other clubs in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

The Mariners, one of five teams represented on the Peoria roster, even had a presence in the broadcast booth as Dave Valle did the color commentary on the MLB Network.