PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Dustin Ackley’s plate appearances last season failed to meet anyone’s expectations — not Seattle’s front office, not the fans’ and certainly not his own.
Ackley, billed as a pure left-handed hitter when Seattle selected him with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, finished his first full season with a disappointing .226 batting average.
“You always expect to do well and to expect good things from yourself,” he said. “And to not do that is pretty tough.”
Ackley believes a few things could have contributed to his struggles at the plate. He won’t, however, blame the bone spurs in his left ankle that nagged him throughout the 2012 season.
“I never really thought it was an excuse,” he said, “because I could play on it.”
To Ackley, the bone spurs that made mornings miserable and pregame workouts painful were simply part of playing baseball.
“There’s probably tons of guys out there that have nagging things but never talk about it,” he said. “If it was something that was preventing me from playing or something that was really hurting, that I thought was affecting my game, I would have said something.
“It never really got to the point where I said, ‘OK, this is affecting my playing.’ It affected my running a little bit . but I never thought it affected my hitting or fielding or anything like that.”
In fact, Ackley’s fielding was spectacular. The second baseman was a Gold Glove finalist after posting a .989 fielding percentage.
By the end of the season, though, Ackley had endured enough. He scheduled surgery to have the bone spurs removed the day after the season ended. After sleeping through most of the first three days post-surgery, he began preparing for the 2013 season.
Because Ackley doesn’t believe his bum ankle was the sole cause of a disappointing season at the plate, he tweaked his swing in the offseason.
“It’s been working all offseason, so I’m going to take it into the spring, and hopefully the season, and see where it goes from there,” he said.
Ackley, who next week will turn 25, speaks of his disappointing 2012 season — he totaled 12 home runs, 50 RBI and a .294 on-base percentage — as someone who views it as a learning experience and not a sign that he might be overmatched at the plate.
“I think going through that is probably going to be important for me for my career — to know that I’ve been there and know how to handle those situations,” he said. “It was bad last year but I think it’s going to be a good thing for me in the long term.”
Seattle manager Eric Wedge said the lackluster hitting performance should provide plenty of motivation for Ackley. Wedge believes Ackley has the tools to succeed.
“I think he’s going to be a good big-league hitter,” Wedge said. “I don’t like to make predictions like that, but I think he’s going to be a good big-league hitter. I think he’s going to be a better hitter this year. To what degree, I don’t know. I think he’s very capable of being a good big-league hitter.”
NOTE: Wedge said starting pitcher Felix Hernandez will throw a bullpen session Wednesday.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.