ARLINGTON -- Dustin Ackley was back in the starting lineup on Tuesday, batting seventh and playing center field, as the Mariners opened a three-game series against the Rangers, having recovered enough from a sprained left thumb to help Seattle's short-handed outfield. He went 1-for-5 with an RBI double in the 9-2 win.
Ackley hurt his thumb when he rolled over his glove while making a diving attempt at a line drive in Saturday's loss to the Cubs at Safeco Field. It was only his second game in center field since transitioning from second base.
Ackley, who didn't play on Sunday prior to Monday's off-day, had the thumb taped, but said it wouldn't bother him at the plate or in the field.
"It's just wrapped a little bit just for precaution, but it feels good," Ackley said prior to Tuesday's game. "I went and hit in the cage and everything felt pretty good. If it was hindering me in any way, where it would affect my performance, I think they'd have shut me down. But it felt fine."
The Mariners already have outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Morse on the 15-day disabled list, and Michael Saunders hasn't played since suffering a gash on the middle finger of his right hand by a spike while diving back on a pickoff attempt on Friday.
Saunders threw and took swings in the cage before Tuesday's game to test out the finger and said he was "definitely available" after feeling marked improvement following the Mariners' off-day.
"It's coming along nicely," Saunders said. "When I went and threw, the further I got back and really had to stay on top of it, I felt it a little bit. But it's healing nicely. I've come a long way just in the last couple days.
Manager Eric Wedge was less optimistic about Saunders, though he was excited by Ackley's quick recovery.
"Surprisingly, [Ackley] feels pretty good," Wedge said. "He felt good coming in and after taking some swings and doing some things, he's ready to go. Saunders is a little better, but still not ready. I'm hoping he'll have some availability though."
Ibanez has historic month of June
ARLINGTON -- How good was June for Raul Ibanez? Good enough that Barry Bonds is the only player since 1993 who was older than him at the time he led a team in home runs and RBIs in the same month.
Ibanez, 41, led the Mariners with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in his torrid June. The 10 home runs equaled his personal high for a month, having also reached double digits in May 2009 with the Phillies.
He carried his hot hitting into July, as he homered in his first at-bat of the month (his 20th of the season) in a 9-2 win over the Rangers on Tuesday. He went back-to-back with Kendrys Morales.
Ibanez became the first Mariner to hit 10 home runs in a month since Edgar Martinez in May 2003. The only American League player with more home runs in June was Baltimore's Chris Davis, who hit 12.
Ibanez was red-hot for a player of any age. But a guy at 41? He became the oldest American League player to lead his team in both home runs and RBIs in a month since Dave Winfield topped the Twins in both categories in 1993 at 41.
The only older player in either league to do better since 1993 was Bonds, who led the Giants in home runs (eight) and RBIs (17) at the age of 42 in April 2007.
"It's very impressive," manager Eric Wedge said. "And not just the home runs, but big hits, too. He's a clutch player, he wants to be up in those situations, and when you look at what he and Morales do with runners in scoring position, that's really been our Achilles and everybody else can draw from that and watch and learn from it. If you thrive more in those situations, we'd be a completely different ballclub."
First baseman Choi added to Futures roster
ARLINGTON -- The Mariners added one Minor Leaguer to the upcoming Futures Game on Tuesday, but lost another as Major League Baseball adjusted the roster for the July 14 game in New York.
Mariners shortstop Brad Miller was replaced on the U.S. team by D-backs shortstop Chris Owings, since Miller won't be eligible to play now that he's on the Major League roster. Miller went 1-for-4 in Tuesday's 9-2 win over the Rangers, and is now 3-for-15 in his first four games with the Mariners.
But young first baseman Ji-Man Choi, currently playing for Double-A Jackson, was added to the World team as a replacement for Rangers catcher Jorge Alfaro, who broke his hand when he was hit by a pitch on Friday.
Right-handed pitcher Taijuan Walker had already been named to the U.S. team. Walker pitched his second game since being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma on Monday, and has yet to give up a run in 11 innings with the Rainiers.
The 15th annual SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game takes place at 11 a.m. PT on All-Star Sunday, July 14, at Citi Field in New York, and can be seen live on MLB.com, ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD and followed live on MLB.com's Gameday. In addition, XM Radio will broadcast play-by-play coverage of the event live on MLB Network Radio XM 89.
MLB.com will also provide complete coverage before, during and after the game. Fans can stay updated by following @MLBFutures on Twitter and can send/receive tweets to/from the U.S. and World Team dugouts during the game by tagging tweets with the hashtags #USDugout and #WorldDugout.
When the rosters were announced last week, Choi was one of the five Futures Finalists vying for the final spot on the World team. He finished fourth in the fan vote, which was won by Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, but Choi is now headed to the game anyway.
The South Korean native began the year at Class A Advanced High Desert, where he hit .337 with seven home runs in 48 games. The 21-year-old was promoted on June 3 to Jackson, where he is hitting .221 with five home runs in 21 games.
• Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen is getting close to regaining his closer's role after retiring the last 11 batters he's faced with five strikeouts going into Tuesday's game at Texas.
"We'll probably give him another outing or two," Wedge said. "But he's been much more consistent and much more like his old self."
Wilhelmsen pitched the ninth inning of Tuesday's 9-2 win, and though he allowed a leadoff single, he only faced three batters in a scoreless inning because he induced a double play to end the game.
• Morse, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right quadriceps muscle, traveled with the team to Texas and did some running drills with trainers before Tuesday's game. He is eligible to come off the DL on Friday and Wedge said he's improving, but a decision needs to be made on whether he'll go out on a Minor League rehab stint when he gets fully cleared to play.
• Walker threw five shutout innings with two hits, two walks and eight strikeouts in a 4-1 victory over Colorado Springs on Monday in Tacoma. In two Triple-A starts, the 20-year-old has yet to allow a run in 11 innings while holding batters to a .132 average with four walks and 12 strikeouts. Walker is currently the youngest player in the Pacific Coast League and second-youngest of any Triple-A player in the country.
• Tacoma outfielder Carlos Peguero and reliever Brian Moran were selected to their first Triple-A All-Star teams and will represent the PCL when it plays the International League All-Stars on July 17 at Aces Ballpark in Reno, Nev.
• Justin Seager, younger brother of Kyle Seager, went 2-for-5 on Monday for Class A Everett and is hitting .372 in his first 11 games in pro ball. First-round Draft pick D.J. Peterson is hitting .222 with three homers and 16 RBIs in his first 12 games.