ST. PETERSBURG -- Dustin Ackley got the start in center field ahead of Michael Saunders on Tuesday against the Rays, and acting manager Robby Thompson said the converted infielder will continue to receive an extended look in the outfield in coming weeks.
Ackley has played in 24 of Seattle's 39 games in the outfield since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on June 25, with 21 of those coming in center field and three in left.
He's hit .255 since his recall, and the Mariners are 15-6 when he's started in center. Thompson indicated that the club wants to use the remaining seven weeks of the season to solidify his situation, with Franklin Gutierrez also joining the outfield battery if he can return healthy from his fourth rehab stint in Triple-A Tacoma.
"We have to see what we have out there with Ackley in center field," Thompson said. "We kind of know what we have with Saunders in center and the corners. There's a chance we'll have Guti coming back -- and where he's going to fit in. So we're just trying to get Ack in there."
Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse will continue manning the corners, with Saunders also fitting into that mix. Ackley is the biggest question mark, given his inexperience at the position.
Ackley doesn't have the strongest outfield arm, but has good speed and is gaining confidence in his routes and ability to get to balls in the gaps.
"It's kind of like when he transitioned to second base," Thompson said. "He did a fine job. He started there for a year and a half without much time being there. I think he's comfortable in the outfield. He's played there before. He's comfortable when he goes over to first base, whether it be late in the game or what have you.
"Ack just kind of has that happy-go-lucky kind of attitude, where he doesn't get too excited about a whole lot, and that kind of helps him, moving around like he's doing. I think he's doing a really good job in center field. He's learning on the job here at the big league level."
Florida humidity welcomes Miller, Franklin home
ST. PETERSBURG -- For Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, it didn't take long to remember that they were back home when they arrived in Florida for the first time as Major League players.
One step out the door and the midsummer humidity of Central Florida left no doubt in the minds of the two Mariners rookie infielders, who grew up about 90 minutes away in the Orlando area.
"It's nice," said Franklin, who has hit .253 in 55 games as the starting second baseman since being called up by the Mariners in late May. "It's kind of cool to be back here in Florida. The first thing I noticed when we got off the plane was the instant humidity. Coming from Seattle, it's a little spoiling. But it's nice to be back here, and I'm excited to see my family."
Miller, batting .268 in 34 games at shortstop after being brought up in late June, was also looking forward to playing as a pro for the first time in his home state. And, yes, while Tropicana Field is indoors, he was also feeling at home as soon as the Mariners plane touched down in Tampa on Monday night.
"Growing up, we were used to it, but once you go away and come back, it's a noticeable difference," he said. "Walking around, you just start sweating. It's good though. It reminds us of home. We know we're back, and it's pretty cool."
Neither Franklin nor Miller has ever played at The Trop, but both said they attended 10-15 games at the park while growing up.
"It'll definitely be exciting playing here in Florida, period," said Franklin. "Playing on any Major League Baseball field is awesome, but to be back in your hometown and playing in front of your family is great."
The two youngsters are making their first trip to Florida as professionals, but they aren't the only Mariners with connections to the Sunshine State. Reliever Danny Farquhar is from Pembroke Pines, Fla., Michael Morse is from Fort Lauderdale, Raul Ibanez grew up in Miami, Kendrys Morales lives near Miami and acting manager Robby Thompson hails from West Palm Beach.
Felix won't get to repeat perfecto on anniversary
ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Mariners face the Rays on Thursday, it will be the one-year anniversary of Felix Hernandez's perfect game against Tampa Bay at Safeco Field.
If the stars had aligned perfectly, Hernandez could have had a chance to face the Rays again on the same day, but alas, he isn't scheduled to throw in this three-game series and instead faces the Rangers on Saturday in Texas.
"I wasn't even thinking about that, but that would have been great, though," Hernandez said Tuesday.
The King naturally has nothing but fond memories from that Aug. 15 afternoon in Seattle a year ago.
"Awesome game," he said. "That day was perfect. Any time I jump on the mound, I want to throw a no-hitter or perfect game, so that's always in my mind. I'm not going to forget that day."
Hernandez hasn't been perfect this season, but he's been pretty darn good. He improved to 12-5 on Sunday with eight scoreless innings against the Brewers, lowering his American League-leading ERA to 2.28.
When Hernandez won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010, he went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA. He was 13-9 with a 3.06 ERA last year. Hernandez figures to have nine starts remaining this season if he stays on schedule.
• Franklin and Miller have made 29 starts together this season, the third-most starts by a rookie middle-infield combination in franchise history. The club record is 54, set in the inaugural season of 1977 by second baseman Jose Baez and shortstop Craig Reynolds.
The 29 combined starts are tied for the second-most by a rookie infield battery in the American League since 1995, with Andy Fox and Derek Jeter of the Yankees combining for 35 starts together in '95.
• Justin Seager, younger brother of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, had a career-high four hits and four RBIs in Class A Everett's 11-10 loss to Salem-Keizer on Monday. Seager, a 12th-round Draft pick this year, is hitting .260 in 45 games for Everett.
• The Rays will give right-hander Alex Cobb the start in Thursday's series finale against Seattle, his first start since taking an Eric Hosmer line drive off the side of his head on June 15 against Kansas City.