ST. LOUIS -- Dustin Ackley has come full circle this season for the Mariners, returning temporarily to second base and hitting leadoff on Sunday for the first time this year after filling that role for much of 2012.
Ackley's change is largely due to attrition, as a hamstring injury to shortstop Brad Miller opened up the top spot in the batting order. And Ackley -- who shifted to the outfield in midseason -- has played second base the past two games after rookie Nick Franklin continued struggling at the plate and then made several critical misplays in Friday's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals.
But Ackley has also hit well enough recently to deserve the opportunity, batting .326 since the All-Star break and raising his average from .200 to .256 over the last 55 games.
Franklin Gutierrez is another player with leadoff experience, but manager Eric Wedge wanted to keep Gutierrez fifth in the lineup behind cleanup hitter Kendrys Morales.
"I still want some protection for Kendrys, so I'm putting Gut behind him," Wedge said. "[Ackley] has been putting up pretty good at-bats, so this gives him a chance up there and keeps the speed element up there with him and [Abraham] Almonte."