OAKLAND -- How much deeper is the Mariners lineup this season with the addition of some key veterans and the improvement of their young core of hitters? Deep enough that Dustin Ackley, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, was hitting eighth in Monday's Opening Day lineup.
Ackley, who batted .365 this spring, hit first or second almost all last season. He was in the No. 2 spot between Chone Figgins and Ichiro Suzuki in last year's opener. But manager Eric Wedge now is going with a healthy Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders in the top two spots, followed by newcomers Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse.
"I think you look up and down our lineup, we've got guys that can hit about anywhere," Ackley said. "It's good to be in a lineup where guys are going to be on base when you get up to bat, especially from top to bottom. It's going to be fun to watch."
This is the kind of depth and balance Wedge has been aiming for since arriving in Seattle in 2011.
"It's different, obviously in a good way," Wedge said. "We've talked about trying to spread out our lineup and be solid from one through nine and we feel we're a lot closer to that. It's a combination of all our young kids continuing to improve and bringing in these veteran guys that have done it. We feel good about it."
Ackley expressed optimism coming out of a spring in which the Mariners led all of baseball in home runs and were second to the Royals in runs and OPS.
"The only question mark ever with this team has been the hitting," Ackley said. "And as the spring went on, we were hitting home runs and scoring a lot of runs. And that's really all we were missing. With the defense and pitching there, the hitting is going to hopefully bring us home."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.