Dustin Ackley, who batted just .226 last year, spent spring training getting used to a new batting approach intended to create additional "balance" at the plate.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Seeing Dustin Ackley in the No. 8 spot in the batting order wasn’t what most fans were envisioning on opening day a year ago.
After all, Ackley finished the 2012 season as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter after the July trade of Ichiro. But the Mariners want to remove as much pressure off Ackley as possible this year as he tries to rebound from a campaign in which he hit just .226.
Ackley spent spring training getting used to a revamped batting approach which involves using his legs more to create additional “balance” at the plate.
“There were good days and bad with it,” Ackley said before Monday night’s opener against Oakland. “The first couple of games, for sure, were kind of tough. But probably that second week or so, it started to feel really good.
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“I feel as good now as I can about it.”
Ackley said the improved balance should make it easier for him to hit all types of pitches.
“I think when you don’t have that balance, you’re sort of susceptible to off-speed pitches and things like that,” Ackley said. “Last year, I was kind of a victim of that. I only hit fastballs in certain spots if it was thrown in the right spot. I think now, I’m better equipped to hit breaking balls, changeups and things like that.
“Last year, I was probably in a position where it was tougher to take those pitches in the dirt and I wasn’t in a position to hit them if they were strikes.”
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the team’s the new hitting additions this winter will allow him to bump younger bats further down in the order. Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero — who spent much of last season in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots — opened Monday at Nos. 6 and 7, respectively.
“It’s different, obviously in a good way,” Wedge said. “We’ve talked about wanting to spread out our lineup and being solid 1-though-9 and we feel like we’re a lot closer to that.”
It never gets
old for Ibanez
Raul Ibanez, who turns 41 in June, experienced his first opening day in the major leagues in 1999 with the Mariners.
“They used to do the (spot)lights on the Kingdome floor,” he said. “It was awesome. I’ll never forget it.”
The Mariners moved into new Safeco Field later that season.
Ibanez said he remembers playing with teammates Jamie Moyer and Edgar Martinez, who were then called “old.”
“I used to think, ‘I hope somebody can call me old someday.’ It’s a good thing.”
Felix Hernandez had a clubhouse attendant deliver a pregame package to former Mariners catcher John Jaso, now handling those duties for the Athletics. Inside the package: a new Rolex watch. It was Hernandez’s way of thanking Jaso for catching his perfect game last August.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @gbakermariners.