By Brent Stecker
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero struggled mightily in the first two months of the MLB season, and the front office spoke Thursday by demoting the 23-year-old to Triple-A Tacoma, where he is now trying to regain his stroke while also learning to play first base.
But Montero isn't the only former prized prospect that has under-performed for Seattle this season.
Dustin Ackley was the 2009 No. 2 overall draft pick, but the former college superstar has managed just five extra base hits this season. (AP)
Second baseman Dustin Ackley, the 2009 No. 2 overall draft pick with the supposed can't-miss bat, is hitting .205 with just five extra-base hits after 45 games, and is mired in an 0-for-19 slump through Sunday. And the question begs to be asked, could he soon also be sent back to the minors to catch his breath, as both former MLB general manager Jim Bowden and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis have suggested on 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" in recent weeks?
According to manager Eric Wedge and general manager Jack Zduriencik in separate interviews with 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" Friday, the Mariners are trying to exercise more patience with the 25-year-old Ackley.
"We've seen some things (from Ackley) in (batting practice), we've seen some at-bats -- he's had a lot of tough outs -- that lead us to believe he's finding his way," Wedge said. "I do want to see more consistency with it, though. Sometimes I think he's a little too passive up there. The way he started to come out of his funk, he raised his average 50 or 60 points here over a couple of weeks because he was aggressive in the zone, which allowed him to see the ball better and take his walks too. I feel good about that."
Zduriencik mentioned that while Ackley's development has been slower than expected, he's still making progress.
"Ackley's been struggling, but he's hit balls hard too," Zduriencik said. "In all fairness to Dustin, it's not what we would like. He's been a little bit slow coming in terms of being a productive player, (but) he's played great defense."
Wedge is still optimistic about Ackley's future.
"Is he gonna do better? Yeah, no doubt about it. That's not who is, not who is gonna be," he said. "Every game up here (in the majors) is worth 10 down there (in the minors). There's first-round picks that don't even get to the big leagues. He's going to be a good, solid Major League player. He's a solid second baseman. He's going to be a solid player on a big league club."
Wedge said the Mariners are trying to avoid making the kind of hasty changes with struggling players that hurt the franchise during previous regimes.
"(Ackley is) still not where he needs to be, but he still raised his average quite a bit the last two or three weeks. You just can't keep changing. They did that here for a lot of years -- didn't work. You gotta stick with the program," he said.