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Seattle Mariners

M’s Ackley looks like natural at second base

Thu., March 15, 2012, midnight

PEORIA, Ariz. – Consider second base second nature now for Dustin Ackley. It wasn’t that way a year ago, when Ackley was still trying to learn his new position.

A first baseman at the University of North Carolina, he was selected No. 2 overall by the Mariners in the 2009 draft. He signed in August that year and was immediately moved to second, where he played a combined 121 games the following season for Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma.

If there were still questions about the move last spring, there are none now. Ackley completed a rapid move up the organizational ladder to play 90 games for the Mariners last season, 86 at second base. He made only six errors in 375 chances at the position.

“I think he surprised everybody in terms of how quickly he adapted to do doing it at that level,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “Right now, you just look at him and you say to yourself, ‘He looks very natural (at second).’ ”

Ackley has quickly become one of the foundations of the Mariners’ future. He’s one of three players on the cover of the team’s 2012 media guide, with pitcher Felix Hernandez and first baseman Justin Smoak. Zduriencik said Ackley could become “one of the faces of the franchise.”

Ackley said the transition to a new position wasn’t entirely smooth. “There really wasn’t an easy part about it,” he said Wednesday. “Just playing first base in college is a different angle, the ground balls are different off the bat, the ground balls are coming from a different angle, the backhands are different, making a shorter throw – you’ve kind of got to get it over there nice and easy. Everything is tough.”

Millwood checks Royals

Kevin Millwood shut out Kansas City for four innings in his most effective start of the spring, and Michael Saunders drove in a pair of runs with a double as part of a four-run sixth inning to lead the Seattle Mariners over the Royals 6-2 Wednesday night.

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