Ackley finds stroke, puts up 3-for-3 performance

Ackley finds stroke, puts up 3-for-3 performance

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After struggling a bit in his first games of the spring, left fielder Dustin Ackley found the perfect tonic on Tuesday in a 3-for-3 day at the plate in the Mariners' 9-3 loss to the Rockies.

Slotted into the third spot in the lineup in place of the absent Robinson Cano, Ackley suddenly found his stroke.

"I think that was just the curse of the Robinson Cano three-hole right there," Ackley said with a laugh. "The hits just pile on for you. That's what I'll attribute it to, for sure. I was just happy to find a couple barrels there. I've been getting jammed a lot the first two or three games, and I finally put a barrel on a couple and gave [myself] a couple chances to find some grass."

Such are the early days of Spring Training that Ackley's hot day lifted his Cactus League average to a healthy .400, as he's now 4-for-10 in four games. He's not worried about the results as much as he is about feeling right at the plate. And on Tuesday he began settling in where he wants to be against live pitching.

"I've felt good at the plate just as far as seeing the ball," he said. "And now my body is starting to catch up to my mind a little bit. I'm gradually turning the page a little bit."

Ackley singled to left in the first inning and then went back up the middle in the third and fifth frames before being replaced.

"He sprays the ball all over the place," said manager Lloyd McClendon. "That's Ackley. He can use the whole field to hit. It was a nice day for him."

Ackley, 27, a first-round Draft pick in 2009, found that an increased confidence level and a more aggressive plate approach helped him finish last season with a strong second half, and he's looking to carry that over to a more consistent 2015 from start to finish. And although he's put up good spring numbers in the past, he feels better about his approach this year.

"It feels like it used to in college, just getting up there and not worrying about anything, staying on balls and doing that kind of thing," he said.

So what happens when Cano returns on Friday and reclaims the No. 3 spot in the lineup?

"I just need another day so I can get a few more hits," said Ackley, "just to kind of secure my average for the rest of the spring."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.