PEORIA, Ariz. -- Though Dustin Ackley was the Mariners' leadoff hitter last season after the trade of Ichiro Suzuki, and spent most of that year hitting first or second, manager Eric Wedge had the young second baseman batting eighth in Sunday's 4-3 victory over the Rangers, and he said that could be a sign of things to come.
With Franklin Gutierrez being used in the leadoff role and Kyle Seager a strong candidate to bat second, Wedge is able to drop Ackley down pretty far in an order that has been strengthened significantly with the offseason additions of hitters like Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay.
"I want to be a complete lineup this year," Wedge said. "I want to be one-through-nine, and there's a chance that's where he's going to hit as we put this thing together. It doesn't matter where he hits, it's just about him getting on track."
Ackley went 0-for-3 on Sunday to put his spring batting average at .292, but Wedge liked what he saw on a couple of hard line drives to center field.
"That was a good approach," said Wedge. "And his batting practice today was as good as I've seen in a while. He's just in a better position to cover the plate, cover the baseball and utilize his strengths. He's a barrel-to-the ball guy. He's always been a good hitter and he's going to be a good hitter. With the veteran guys and some of these other young core guys improving, I think we'll have that luxury."
The spot isn't completely foreign to Ackley. Though he started 130 games in the first two spots of the order last year, he also started eight games at No. 7 and eight at No. 8, and he finished the year at .226.