Dustin Ackley and Matt Harvey were on the same side for two seasons, two shining stars in the University of North Carolina constellation, one because of his bat and the other because of his arm.
"He was a great pitcher, great competitor," Ackley said. "Since I last saw him, I think he's become more polished, more of a pitcher. At that age, he was 18, 19 years old. You're still learning a lot. You're still finding yourself."
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Ackley and Harvey found themselves on opposite sides for the first time Sunday night, squaring off in the Subway Series at Citi Field, Ackley as the starting second baseman for the Yankees and Harvey as the starter on the mound for the Mets. Ackley has been seen regularly in the big picture of late.
The Yankees acquired the 27-year-old lefthanded hitter from Seattle on July 30, then had to send him to the DL five days later with a back problem. He stayed there until Sept. 1. But he has started at second two games in a row and three of the last four, all against righty starters, replacing light-hitting Stephen Drew.
Ackley hit his way into this playoff race, with eight hits in his last 16 at-bats. He went 0-for-2 against Harvey before hitting a three-run homer in the sixth off Mets reliever Hansel Robles.
Joe Girardi said the Yankees would have to think about Ackley for second base next season.
"I wasn't expecting to come over here and get playing time," Ackley said. "Everything I got, I had to earn. I think for me, it's a great feeling knowing I came over here and helped and competed, and I think they've taken notice of that.
"Hopefully, the opportunities will be there, and if I can take advantage of that, I'll have a good shot of having plenty of at-bats and hopefully being here for a while."
The 2009 second overall pick by the Mariners and son of a former catcher in the Red Sox farm system has a particular set of skills -- the ability to play first, second and all over the outfield. He batted only .215 in 85 games for Seattle. But Ackley hit .274 over his last 69 games in 2014 and is at .360 (9-for-25) with two doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBIs in his first 13 games with the Yankees, including 3-for-7 as a pinch hitter.
"We've liked the way he's swung the bat," Girardi said. "And our expectation would be that he would be able to help us in different positions . . . And our ballpark could play really well for him."
Ackley hasn't played in a postseason game since his debut in 2011.
"I haven't experienced it yet," Ackley said, "but I can only imagine what it's going to be like."