SEA@MIA: Ackley hits a sac fly to score Cano

SEATTLE -- The idea of moving left fielder Dustin Ackley to the No. 2 spot in the batting order proved to be a short experiment for Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who dropped Ackley back to the eight-hole for Wednesday's series finale with the Astros.

Ackley had been hitting .279 while batting almost exclusively near the bottom of the order in the first 18 games of the season, but he went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two shots in the two-spot in the first two games of the Astros series.

"I was just trying to get a spark," McClendon said prior to Wednesday's game. "It didn't work. I was wrong with that. But I tried. I like him in the eighth spot, and it's probably my mistake. I should have left him in the eighth spot because he was doing very well down there. I'm going to do it my way. Like Frank Sinatra. He's going back to the eight spot."

McClendon had said the previous week he wanted to keep Ackley and catcher Mike Zunino in the eight and nine spots as they learned the league and gained experience and confidence at the plate, but said he wavered from that when the offense started struggling.

"When you've lost seven or eight in a row, it was real hard [to fight the urge to move him up]," McClendon said. "That's why I put him up there, trying to jump-start the offense a little. But right now I'm going to leave him there.

"I'm going to let him flourish there just like I'm going to leave Zunino at the bottom of the order and let him flourish and continue to have success. We'll see how it goes in the second half of the season, but for right now I think that's the right thing to do."

McClendon said Ackley fell victim to the same fate as many of his teammates in the past two games.

"Nothing different than anybody else. Just real bad at-bats, trying to do too much," McClendon said. "When you're struggling, that's what happens."

Shortstop Brad Miller, who snapped an 0-for-15 skid with an eighth-inning double on Tuesday, was moved back to the No. 2 spot where he hit for the first two weeks of the season after an outstanding spring.

"I tried to take a little of the pressure off Miller as well," McClendon said. "Hopefully he's over the hump and back on course again."

Mariners option Franklin back to Triple-A Tacoma

SEA@TEX: Franklin triples for first hit of season

SEATTLE -- Nick Franklin's return to the Mariners turned out to be brief as the young infielder was told after Wednesday's 5-3 victory over the Astros that he's been optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma.

Franklin broke the news himself on Twitter, writing "Las Vegas here I come!"

Tacoma opens a four-game series in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Franklin hit .125 (2-for-16) with a triple in six games for the Mariners after being called up on April 16.

After seeing one start at second, one at shortstop and one at designated hitter, he started his first game in right field on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 with an infield single. He made one routine catch in right field, but threw wildly and missed the cutoff man on a two-run double into the corner earlier in the game.

The 23-year-old hit .395 with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 11 games for Tacoma to start the season after losing out on the starting-shortstop battle with Brad Miller in Spring Training. The 2009 first-round Draft pick played 102 games last year as a rookie second baseman, but he lost that job when the Mariners signed Robinson Cano.

The Mariners haven't announced the move yet, but a source indicated that Cole Gillespie, a more-experienced outfielder who is hitting .362 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 16 games for Tacoma, will likely get the callup.

Gillespie has played 78 games in the Majors with the D-backs, Giants and Cubs over the past four years with a .225 average in 169 at-bats.

He signed as a Minor League free agent with the Mariners over the offseason and had an extremely productive spring in the Major League camp before continuing that with the Rainiers.

Paxton, Walker get good news from doctor

LAA@SEA: Paxton leaves the game with apparent injury

SEATTLE -- Injured Mariners starters James Paxton and Taijuan Walker met with team doctor Ed Khalfayan on Tuesday and both were cleared to start playing catch in the coming days.

Paxton, on the 15-day disabled list since April 9 with a strained lat muscle, will begin throwing Friday. Walker, who has been dealing with soreness in his shoulder all spring, can start tossing a ball again on Monday.

Paxton went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA before being shut down after feeling pain behind his left shoulder in the sixth inning of his second start. Initial estimates were that he could be out 6-8 weeks, but the 25-year-old said the news has been positive this week.

"He said I was progressing nicely," Paxton said. "Based on my strength and how everything feels, he was really pleased. He said just keep on progressing and see how things go."

With Hisashi Iwakuma set to make his first Minor League rehab start on Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma in Las Vegas, manager Lloyd McClendon hopes the tide is starting to turn for a beleaguered rotation that also has Blake Beavan on the 15-day DL.

"It's kind of tough when you're getting ready for a game and you see your Nos. 2, 3 and 4 starters walk by and they're all waving as they go sit down at the end of the dugout on the DL," McClendon acknowledged. "But yeah, we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit."

That light could provide options, and one being pondered is the future of Erasmo Ramirez in the rotation after he lost his third straight decision on Tuesday and is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in five starts.

Asked if Ramirez's four straight poor outings were leading to consideration of change there, McClendon said: "I would say that's a fair assessment, yeah. I'm not sure what we're going to do as of right now, but yeah."

Iwakuma's return clearly could play a factor there. The All-Star right-hander will need at least the one Minor League start on Sunday, but with off-days on Thursday and Monday, the Mariners could skip Ramirez's next start and then have Iwakuma ready to slot in by the Astros series in Houston on May 2-4 if all goes well.

Worth noting

• Going into Wednesday's game, the Mariners were 7-2 when hitting at least one home run in a game, but 0-11 when they didn't clear the fence.

• Friday is Beard Hat Night at Safeco Field, with the first 20,000 fans at the 7:10 p.m. PT game against the Rangers receiving a throwback Mariners trident hat, complete with attached blonde beard.