SEATTLE -- The Mariners honored Memorial Day at Safeco Field by wearing the league-wide specially designed caps and jerseys featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design licensed from the United States Marine Corps, and by holding a few other special pregame events.
On the field prior to the game, the flag was presented by the U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle Honor Guard. The National Anthem was performed by the First Corps Command Army Band from Joint Base Fort Lewis-McChord, and World War II veteran Bruce Hullinger threw the ceremonial first pitch.
After that, Sergeant Leroy Petry did the honorary game ball delivery, placing the ball on the pitcher's mound to the delight of the crowd.
Mariners option Ackley, promote prospect Franklin
SEATTLE -- The Mariners continued to reshape their roster on Monday, this time bidding what they hope will be a temporary goodbye to one huge prospect while saying hello to another.
Seattle optioned second baseman Dustin Ackley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, to Triple-A Tacoma and called up 22-year-old infielder Nick Franklin from Tacoma. The Mariners also optioned left-handed reliever Lucas Luetge to Tacoma and recalled righty Hector Noesi in a move designed to provide the beleaguered bullpen with some security. Outfielder Francisco Martinez was designated for assignment to clear room for Franklin on the 40-man roster.
While the promotion of No. 4 prospect Franklin, who was hitting .325 with four home runs, 20 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 39 games for Tacoma this season seemed inevitable considering how quickly Franklin has risen through the organizational ranks, the demotion of Ackley was a tough but ultimately necessary decision for the club's brass. Ackley, 25, was hitting .205 with one homer and eight RBIs in 45 games.
"It was just time," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously, we've fought for the guy for quite a period of time now. We wanted to make it work up here and not do that, but ultimately we didn't feel like we could take it any further."
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik couldn't put a finger on exactly why Ackley -- who burst onto the big league scene in 2011, hit .273 with six homers and 36 RBIs in 333 at-bats and ended up sixth In American League Rookie of the Year voting -- had slumped so badly in the ensuing seasons. Last year, Ackley hit .226 with a .294 on-base percentage.
"Whether he lost his stroke and lost his confidence, it's hard to say," Zduriencik said. "But I think it was very evident to us that what this guy needed was to be taken out from under the big league lights. ... Take a step backwards, go down and try to get your swing back, try to regain your confidence and let the pieces fall where they may."
The Mariners made a similar move with once-heralded hitter Jesus Montero last week, but as Zduriencik explained, the Montero move was more about getting a player acclimated to a new position (in this case, first base).
Wedge said he thought Ackley's troubles were almost 100 percent mental.
"It's not his swing anymore," Wedge said. "He's in a pretty good position fundamentally. But I do think it's the mental that leads to the fundamental, the mental that leads to the actual performance. Listen, he's going to be a good hitter. He's going to be a good player. He's done a [heck] of a job at second base. … He gets down the line quicker than anybody, he can steal a bag, he cuts the bases as good as anybody. There's a lot there to like.
"He's a good kid, he competes. But he just needs to get over some things mentally in regard to approach. When he does that, we'll get him back up here and I think he'll take off. That's why you have Triple-A. This is the exact situation for that. It allows him to catch his breath and go down there and work on what he needs to work on."
Franklin ready to contribute at Major League level
SEATTLE -- Nick Franklin was not in the Mariners lineup for Monday afternoon's game, but he will be starting Tuesday night's game at second base and quite possibly many more after that. After walking through the doors of the Seattle clubhouse on his first day as a Major League ballplayer, that seemed to suit him just fine.
Franklin, a 22-year-old Florida native who was the 27th overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Lake Brantley High School, said he learned of his promotion while with Triple-A Tacoma on a road trip in Reno. He watched the Mariners game on TV a bit Sunday, then decided to hit the showers. That's when the phone call came.
"I didn't know what to do," said Franklin, who will wear No. 20. "Honestly, they told me, and I didn't even think to call my dad. I was like, 'Uh, I don't even know what I do from here.' It took me about a minute and I was like, 'I should probably call my dad.' So I talked to my dad for like 30 seconds and then jumped on a plane two hours later."
Franklin said his dad, mom and brother would be in the stands at Safeco Field on Monday and Tuesday night. Although he was expected to make his debut Tuesday, he entered Monday's game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement. He made two plays in the field at second base and drew a walk at the plate.
"It's exciting," Franklin said. "I can't really explain the feeling yet, because it hasn't really hit me. I'm more than excited."
Franklin, who was drafted as a shortstop but has seen time at second in the Minors, said he's fine playing the keystone position.
"I feel like it's more of a vacation to me at second," Franklin said. "Not really, but from short to second, there's a big difference, just in the throw. There's not as much responsibility, so I'm pretty comfortable with it."
Franklin, who is a switch-hitter, said he's found success in a reliable offensive approach.
"Just being patient," Franklin said. "Going from last year to this year was the big difference, just seeing pitches, seeing the good ones and hitting the good ones. Not trying to hit every single ball. Just trying to get your pitch and square it up as best you can."
Franklin said he has no expectations about playing time or how long he'll stay up here. In fact, he kept his assessment of the situation very simple.
"I know I'm here," Franklin said. "And I'm here to win."
• Wedge was talking about Ackley's demotion to Triple-A and his mental approach, and he intimated that Ackley might have been too concerned with pitch selectivity and high on-base percentage, leading to a one-liner that hit on one of baseball's most intriguing ongoing philosophical battles.
"It's the new generation. It's all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean?" Wedge said. "People who haven't played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids' heads."
• Wedge said first baseman Justin Smoak (strained oblique) was undergoing tests Monday, and the team would find out within a day or two whether Smoak's injury was a day-to-day situation or whether he'd have to have to go on the disabled list.
"He feels a little bit better," Wedge said.
• Including Monday, Kendrys Morales has recorded a hit in 18 of 21 games this month.