Ackley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, has a career .243 average with 42 home runs, 31 steals and 201 RBI.
MINNEAPOLIS — Dustin Ackley packed his things slowly and carefully with his teammates gathered around his locker, watching and providing comments to lighten the mood.
He offered a few smiles and jokes. But they felt forced considering the circumstances — he was leaving the only organization he had known.
On Thursday with his name already in the starting lineup for the game that night, Ackley was informed by manager Lloyd McClendon that he’d been traded to the New York Yankees for two minor-leaguers — outfielder Ramon Flores and pitcher Jose Ramirez.
Mariners @ Minnesota, 5:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Ackley emerged from the visitor’s clubhouse at Target Field on his phone moments after the news had been broken on Twitter. He talked quietly for a few minutes and then walked to the assembled media waiting for the clubhouse to open.
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“I just found out,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy. I’m going to miss everyone here, that’s for sure. I’ve been with this organization my whole career. To say that I’m leaving it now is kind of crazy.”
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
He was supposed to be a part of the Mariners’ long-term future — a key piece to the foundation. At least that was the belief of general manager Jack Zduriencik when he selected Ackley with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft. Ackley was Zduriencik’s first draft pick as GM of the Mariners. He was considered to be the best hitting prospect in the draft after putting up video-game numbers at the University of North Carolina.
It appeared he might be that guy, hitting .273 with a .766 OPS with 16 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 36 RBI in 90 big-league games in 2011. But swing changes, a switch to the outfield and slow starts set back his past three seasons. He has a career .243 average with 42 home runs, 31 steals and 201 RBI.
“He’s a good, young man,” Zduriencik said. “ I respect him. He’s given it his best. It just didn’t work the way he hoped it would work here, and it didn’t work the way we hoped it would work out.”
Ackley was diplomatic about his career with the Mariners.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I have nothing but good memories here. I’ve had some struggles, but I’ve had some good times here, too. Ultimately, when I look back on it, it’s going to be all positive things. I’ve got some teammates here and friends here that I’ve had for the rest of my life. You can’t really trade that for anything.”
Ackley joins a Yankees team that is in first place in the American League East and in a stretch run for the playoffs.
But joining the Yankees will come with consequences. Ackley was forced to shave his signature mountain-man beard, per Yankee team rules.
“I think that’s pretty written in stone,” he said. “You’ll see me in a little bit, and I will be a different-looking guy.”
Flores and Ramirez were added to the 40-man roster, which is full. They are expected to report to Class AAA Tacoma on Friday.
Flores, 23, was up briefly with the Yankees and played against the Mariners, but he’s spent most of the season with Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the International League and is hitting .286 (79 for 276) with 11 doubles, two triples, seven home runs and 34 RBI in 73 games with a .377 on-base percentage.
Ramirez, 25, is a big strong right-hander with a mid- to high-90s fastball. He’s 3-0 with 10 saves and a 2.90 ERA in 32 appearances for Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 492/3 innings, he’s struck out 56 batters for an average of 10.15 strikeouts per nine innings. Ramirez has made 11 big-league appearances (eight in 2014, three in 2015) and has a 0-2 record with a 7.52 ERA.
The Mariners played short-handed Thursday. First baseman/DH Jesus Montero was supposed to be recalled from Tacoma. However, the Mariners couldn’t get him to Minnesota from El Paso in time for the game, so no official move was made. Barring a significant roster change, Montero will join the Mariners on Friday.
There was a report from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan that Mariners ownership was prohibiting Zduriencik from trading soon-to-be free agent Hisashi Iwakuma — the team’s most coveted trade chip.
It’s not surprising considering the majority ownership is held by Nintendo of America, the parent company being Japan-based Nintendo.
There have been rumors that the organization might try to sign Iwakuma, 34, to a team-friendly extension of a year or two to add depth to the rotation.
• Robinson Cano (abdominal strain) and Logan Morrison (bruised thumb) are day to day. Cano hopes to DH on Friday or Saturday.
• Charlie Furbush threw a bullpen session before batting practice and will throw another one Saturday.