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Cano signing allows Ackley to focus on outfield work

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dustin Ackley arrived in Mariners camp Saturday, sporting his full beard and the new knowledge that he's now a full-time outfielder.

After Ackley transitioned from second base to the outfield at midseason last year, the club talked of him continuing in something of a utility role -- a guy who could play several positions. But that changed a bit when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano, who figures to hold down the second-base job for years to come.

Ackley admitted he was surprised, pleasantly so, when the club signed Cano. Now he knows exactly where he'll compete this spring, and he was already in the outfield Saturday, shagging balls as teammates hit batting practice.

"Yeah, it definitely does help," Ackley said. "Knowing second base is kind of off limits right now definitely gives you peace of mind that, well, I'll be in the outfield. So it's a good thing.

"I'd already kind of focused on the outfield anyway. I still have second base in the back of my mind, just because you never know what could happen. Injuries, or [Cano] gets a day off or DHs, I still have to be ready at any time. So I definitely still have that in the back of my mind. But for sure, the outfield is top priority, no question. Center, left, I'll be ready for wherever they want me to be."

Ackley spent the offseason hitting and throwing in his own indoor facility on his 140-acre property in Lapeer, Mich., with an extra focus on preparing his throwing arm more for outfield work.

He and his wife rented an RV last week and drove from Michigan to Arizona with their two dogs, spending five days visiting relatives and seeing the country before settling in for the long haul of the baseball season.

After leading the Mariners with a .304 batting average after the All-Star break, the 25-year-old -- he turns 26 on Feb. 26 -- just wants to keep that momentum rolling into the new season.

"I'm ready," he said. "I've been looking forward to this, for sure. It seemed like the offseason just flew by. No surgeries during the offseason, no delays getting working out or anything. I feel as ready as I've ever been."

With Ackley's arrival, the only players on the 40-man roster who are not in camp yet are Cano, Nick Franklin and outfielder Abraham Almonte. Position players don't officially report for physicals until Monday, and the first full-squad workout is Tuesday.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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