SEATTLE -- It was, in more ways than one, a stroke of luck.
In the sixth inning of Friday night's 6-4 win over the Athletics, left fielder Dustin Ackley hit a check-swing single into left field. Ackley finished the night 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and raised his average to .286.
"I think in Oakland I had two or three balls that I hit that I really squared up in the gaps and got ran down," Ackley said Friday. "When you're feeling good and things are going well, you get those hits. Those balls start to fall for you. When you're not aggressive and you're not doing those things, you tend not to get those."
Ackley's solid start to 2014 isn't an aberration. After the 2013 All-Star break, he posted a .304/.374/.435 line. Ackley stopped worrying about what to swing at and started being aggressive. He was back to being the hitter the Mariners thought they were getting when they selected him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
"This is doable. It's not like I'm pulling a rabbit out of the hat or anything. I've always done this, my whole life," Ackley said. "I got to believe that. When you stop believing that, you start getting in trouble. For me, I just got to stay on that same path."
Early in Spring Training, manager Lloyd McClendon named Ackley his starting left fielder and let him go to work. That was for a reason. After the pair met face to face in the offseason to discuss Ackley's future, McClendon was convinced the 26-year-old needed stability after bouncing between Triple-A and the Major Leagues last season.
"One of the things I came away with is I think he just needs some consistency. He needs to know where he's going to be every day, stick him there, let him play," McClendon said. "I think he's starting to show us he's got a chance to be a pretty good Major League player."
Beavan to get call for rotation spot over Walker
SEATTLE -- Taijuan Walker's return to the Major Leagues will have to wait a little longer.
The rehabbing right-hander won't be recalled to fill the vacant spot in the starting rotation for Tuesday's game against the Rangers in Arlington. Instead, Seattle will recall righty Blake Beavan from Triple-A Tacoma and send Walker to the Rainiers to make a third rehab start, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Saturday.
Walker, the club's top prospect, was stellar Wednesday in a rehab stint with Double-A Jackson -- allowing three hits with 10 strikeouts and a walk on 85 pitches in five innings -- but McClendon said the club wants to get the 21-year-old's pitch count up before it brings him back to the big leagues. Walker was sidelined by shoulder inflammation all of Spring Training.
"He's progressing well," McClendon said. "We're very pleased with where he is at this point."
Beavan, meanwhile, rebounded from a poor Cactus League performance to go 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA over 13 innings in two starts with Tacoma. He picked up a no-decision in the Rainers' 4-3 win over El Paso on Wednesday, scattering five hits and two runs in six innings while striking out two. In 12 appearances with the Mariners last season, including two starts, Beavan was 0-2 with a 6.13 ERA before a demotion to Tacoma in mid-July.
"Beavan's throwing well," McClendon said. "His last outing was pretty darn good. We just felt he is physically ready to make this start."
Mariners not surprised by early success
SEATTLE -- Entering Saturday with a 6-3 record, the Mariners were atop the American League West standings.
That hasn't been too common for a team that hasn't posted a winning record since 2009. Paramount to the team's very early success has been the ability to win close games.
Each of Seattle's last six contests has been decided by three runs or fewer and five of the last six have been decided by two runs or one.
"It's nice to be off to a good start, but I think it's safe to say this team is better than it has been in the past, and I think we'll continue to get better as our pitching staff gets healthier and we get more depth, particularly with our starting pitching. I think we're going to be a better club," manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Those feelings were shared in the clubhouse -- even though McClendon joked that he tries to stay out of there as much as possible.
"I don't think it's really surprised any of us," left fielder Dustin Ackley said. "I think what we did in Spring Training, we knew that was something we were capable of doing -- winning a lot of games.
• Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma took another step Saturday as he continues to rehab a strained finger tendon on his throwing hand. A few hours before the game, Iwakuma threw a 45-pitch bullpen that included fastballs, curveballs and sliders. He'll increase his next session to 50-55 pitches Tuesday with the hope he can face live hitting by the end of next week.
Adam Lewis is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.