Here’s what we saw and learned Tuesday in Peoria
Busy day in Peoria today as Mariners skipper Eric Wedge made official what he’d been hinting at for weeks now, saying Ichiro no longer would be the leadoff hitter this season. But what did surprise some is that he’ll be putting the veteran right fielder in the No. 3 spot in the order and says this is more than just a Spring Training experiment, but rather a long-term solution.
In my mind, the biggest upside of Wedge’s decision will be if it helps get Chone Figgins back to being the Chone Figgins the Mariners thought they’d acquired when they signed him two years ago.
Figgins was already gone by the time Wedge made his announcement today, but I’d talked to Figgins this morning and was already working on a story on his potential return to the leadoff role for Mariners.com. So that worked out well and I filed this story this evening, with Figgins talking about why he thinks his approach works better in the leadoff spot and why he struggled so much hitting second.
Wedge figures Ichiro can be more valuable hitting third. And if the move kick-starts Figgins, it’s a double bonus. He didn’t say it, but if Figgins doesn’t produce, I think Dustin Ackley might eventually get a shot in the leadoff role and Kyle Seager will be waiting in the wings at third.
I know some are clamoring for Alex Liddi (pictured below), but the feeling is he needs more seasoning in Triple A to improve his contact rate, the same thing Carlos Peguero and Trayvon Robinson need to work on to make the jump to the Majors. The Mariners broke a franchise record for strikeouts last season and Wedge isn’t looking to go down that same road.
What does the potential Mariners lineup look like at this point? Wedge didn’t go beyond his likely top three, but it’s not hard to pencil out a scenario:
Chone Figgins 3B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Mike Carp LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Jesus Montero DH
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Miguel Olivo C
Brendan Ryan SS
Smoak and Carp could easily be flip-flopped, but I put Carp fourth at this point because he is killing it in batting practice out of the chute and clearly looks like the team’s best hitter to me at the moment. But we haven’t played a game yet and there’s a long way to go, obviously.
I put Montero sixth, but that is a whole lot of lefties up top and he eventually could move up. But again, this is just an example of what we might be looking at, which frankly looks a lot deeper than last year’s lineup potentially.
Otherwise today, Brendan Ryan again didn’t throw as the herniated disc he suffered at the end of last year is limiting his early action. Here’s his view as teammates warmed up their arms today.
On the plus side, George Sherrill (below) threw his first bullpen session, a quick five-minute opener, after being held back the first 10 days. I cover both the Ryan and Sherrill stories here in today’s notebook.
Meanwhile, here’s my fun photo for the day with Figgins and Seager. Here’s to looking for better things to come …