While the Nationals decide whether or not last year’s No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg needs any time in the minors, the Mariners are definitely sending No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley to the minors and he’s also learning a new position.
Ackley played primarily first base at the University of North Carolina after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, but clearly has the range and athleticism to handle a tougher position now that he’s fully recovered.
Center field would probably be the first choice, but because the Mariners already have world-class fly-catcher Franklin Gutierrez there Ackley is getting a try at second base. And so far so good, according to infield coach Mike Brumley:
He has really come along well. A lot of guys in our minor league system have spent a lot of time with him and they have done such a good job that it looks like he fits there. He’s very athletic, quick, a smooth-type player, so maybe he doesn’t look as quick as he really is. It’s kind of like hitting. He has such a smooth transition in anything he does. He has great timing with his body. Now, it’s a matter of game experience. It is very encouraging and he is going to be a joy to watch.
Ackley can always shift to the outfield if the transition to second base hits a snag, but it makes sense to see if he can handle the much tougher position first. Not only would his bat be significantly better compared to second baseman than corner outfielders, Ackley sticking at second base would allow the Mariners to fill the lesser defensive position he might otherwise have played with another big bat.
Plus, while Gutierrez is signed through 2014 the Mariners could easily clear room for Ackley at second base by trading incumbent Jose Lopez (or simply declining his $4.5 million option for 2011). Lopez is a solid player, but he’s hardly a long-term building block and there were already some rumors that the Mariners shopped him during the offseason.
Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.
Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.
Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.
Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.
It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.
While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.
The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”