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Sunday, May 12, 2013 - Page updated at 11:00 p.m.
Ackley, Seager cheer on fellow North Carolina star Matt Harvey | Mariners notebook
By Larry Stone
Seattle Times staff reporter
Matt Harvey, the Mets' 24-year-old phenom, has been the talk of baseball this year with his 4-0 record, 1.28 earned-run average, and near-perfect game last week. Throw in the New York hype machine, and it's no wonder he's exploding on the MLB scene.
Watching intently, and with pride, are Mariners infielders Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, who were Harvey's teammates for their final two seasons at the University of North Carolina. Seager, in fact, roomed with Harvey his last year at UNC in a house with a few other players.
"He was always a guy, even in college, you knew he was going to do good things," Seager said. "He has the stuff, the body, the mentality. He's got everything you're looking for from a pitcher."
Agreed Ackley, "He had every tool to be a star. In college, he wasn't quite the pitcher he is now. He had all the stuff. He threw hard. One thing he didn't have in college he has now that seems like his best pitch is the slider. I don't think he quite developed that when I was there. I think a pitch like that for him, he throws it 88 to 90 mph, is pretty devastating. I think all of his teammates knew he was going to be pretty special."
Ackley said it hasn't been hard monitoring Harvey's progress.
"I've been keeping up on him because, I mean, he's been all over the TV," he said with a laugh. "I'm happy for him. He deserves it. He works hard. He's in the weight room all the time, a real athletic kid. He's going to be great."
Ackley, Seager and Harvey were teammates on the 2008 and 2009 Tar Heels teams. Ackley and Seager were drafted by the Mariners in 2009, Ackley No. 2 overall in the first round, Seager in the third round. Harvey played one more year in college and was selected in the first round in 2010 (No. 7 overall) by the Mets.
It's amazing to look back at the talent from that UNC era — besides those three, there's pitchers Alex White (Astros) and Adam Warren (Yankees), and catcher Tim Federowicz (Dodgers), as well as numerous players in the minors, such as reliever Brian Moran in the Mariner organization.
"It's hard to keep up with all of them, there's so many," said Ackley.
"We had some really good squads," Seager added. "You look back at guys not only in pro ball, but in the big leagues, there's a lot of guys. There's a lot of guys in the upper minors who are right there. It's pretty cool just the family of it all. A lot of teams have a North Carolina guy, so it's pretty cool to keep up with everybody."
One regret is that those Tar Heels squads didn't win a title. They made it to the College World Series in all three seasons with Ackley and Seager, but finished second (losing the title game to Oregon State), third and sixth, respectively.
"We never won it, but we had a great time," Ackley said.
• Raul Ibanez was back in the Mariner lineup after his big three-run homer on Friday. Manager Eric Wedge said Jason Bay would be back in there Sunday against left-hander Tommy Milone.
"We were forced to play everybody just a little bit too much early on, and I think that worked against us a little," Wedge said. "We were able to get Jason going a little bit. We feel like he's in a good place, and we'd like to do the same with Raul. We're just trying to run that balance."
In his last five games since April 27, Ibanez is 4 for 10 with a double, triple, home run and two walks, while striking out just once and driving in four.
• Justin Smoak entered Saturday hitting just .148 (4 for 27) with runners in scoring position, but he had doubled four times in his last seven games (and in each of his last four games at Safeco), and Wedge sees positive signs. He particularly liked Smoak's double in a seven-pitch at-bat on Friday in the first inning with runners on the corners.
"You have to like the fight in his at-bats," Wedge said. "He's more consistent the way the ball's coming off his bat in BP, both from the right and left side. He has better balance, he's over the plate better, in a stronger position to hit. I think he's more relaxed with that approach. You put that all together, it's the combination you want from a big strong guy like Justin."
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @StoneLarry
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