PEORIA, Ariz. — Dustin Ackley played primarily in center field last year after being converted to the outfield, but those days appear to be over.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Friday that Ackley is being looked at as a left fielder despite playing 50 of his 59 outfield games in center in 2013. Asked why left and not center for Ackley, McClendon replied, “Because that’s where I want him.”
Ackley’s arm strength, or lack thereof, is a likely factor. McClendon said he’d like Corey Hart, coming back from two knee surgeries, to be in right field. Hart has looked good physically so far, though the Mariners are not pushing him in some of the more stringent drills.
“We have to be smart with what we do with him,” McClendon said. “Hopefully, he doesn’t have any setbacks. I think 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, but as we progress, I think that will get better as well.”
McClendon said Michael Saunders, Abraham Almonte and Stefen Romero can play all three outfield positions. Willie Bloomquist and Endy Chavez also have center-field experience. Saunders probably slots in as the primary center fielder, though there is some sentiment he is more suited for a corner spot.
“(Logan) Morrison, as we progress, will probably get some time out in left and right,” McClendon said.
He cited Xavier Avery, acquired from Baltimore in the Michael Morse trade, as a young outfielder he’d like to get a look at this spring. Avery has 32 games of major-league experience, all but one inning of it in left field.
Seager at No. 2 spot?
McClendon said in an ideal world, he’d like Kyle Seager to hit second, in front of Robinson Cano and Hart, who are slated as the three-four hitters.
“Ideally, if we’re real good, he’s hitting second,” McClendon said. “But I don’t know. We’ll see how it all works out.”
The manager also said that he doesn’t see John Buck, the likely backup catcher, as an option at designated hitter.
“I’ll never say never, but I think he’s probably highly unlikely,” McClendon said. “It just depends on the makeup (of the roster). I believe you need protection, a third catcher type of guy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a third catcher, but someone who can go back there. I’d be a little reluctant to do that (play Buck at DH) without that guy.”
Right-handed pitcher Brandon Maurer had his scheduled session of throwing live batting practice canceled Friday when his back locked up. He’ll be re-evaluated Saturday. Three nonroster pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery — Scott Baker, Randy Wolf and Zach Miner — all pitched live BP without apparent issues.
“I thought the ball came out good for all three of them,” McClendon said. “Obviously, they’re a little rusty, but that’s OK. They came through it good, looked free and easy. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re not looking for any kind of results. We’re looking for free and easy.”
McClendon revealed a camp injury, but don’t get too alarmed. It was hitting coach Howard Johnson, who broke a toe when struck by an errant line drive Thursday.
“He’s on the DL, but he’ll be fine,” McClendon said. “It’s one of those things that happens.”