Wedge says Ichiro will bat third this season
Mariners manager Eric Wedge says Ichiro Suzuki will bat third this season, with Chone Figgins and Dustin Ackley the likely 1-2 hitters in Seattle’s lineup.
Wedge made the announcement Tuesday after talking to all the players involved.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking about it this winter and talked with the coaches and Jack [Zduriencik] and everyone,” Wedge said. “Bottom line is for us to have the best lineup 1 through 9 out there. I want our lineup to be extended. I feel our best opportunity to score runs is with Ichiro batting third. It helps the guy in front of him, it helps the guy behind him and it helps him.
“When you look at what we have coming back this year and trying to be deeper 1 through 9 and giving ourselves the greatest opportunity to score runs, that’s why I’m going to him him third. Everybody in there wants to win. Ichiro as much as anybody, they all want us to put together the best lineup we can to score the most runs possible.”
Wedge said moving Figgins back to the leadoff role he had in Anaheim before signing with Seattle in 2010 could ignite the third baseman, who hit just .188 last year.
“I’m confident he can get back to his old self as the leadoff hitter,” Wedge said. “That’s when he was the Figgins that produced, that got on base and scored runs and was really a pain for opposing teams. I feel like to give him the greatest chance to get back on track and succeed is to put him back in that role.”
Wedge said he wasn’t setting the 1-2 hitters in stone, but that Figgins and Ackley were the leading contenders at this point.
The biggest news is Ichiro moving out of the leadoff spot he’s maintained for almost his entire 11 years in Seattle.
“He’s as smart a baseball player as we have in there and he understands the game very well,” Wedge said. “He understands what the responsibility and priorities are with somebody hitting third and I’m trusting in that.”
“I had a good talk with him yesterday,” Wedge said. “It wasn’t out of left field, because we’ve had discussions [previously]. He’s on board. He’s ready to go.”
Wedge said the decision would stand for the season, not just for the spring.
“I had the opporutnity to watch Ichiro and all these other guys all of last year and this is our best fit,” he said.
Ichiro, 38, has led off for 1,720 of the 1,733 starts he’s made with the Mariners. His batting average slipped to a career low .272 last year and his on-base percentage was just .310 as the Mariners finished last in the Majors in scoring for a second straight season.
“I came prepared mentally because there was a possibility I’d be hitting elsewhere,” Ichiro said through translator Antony Suzuki. “I was always prepared to do what is best forthe team. So if this is the case, this is the best for me to do.”
How strange will it be to hit third?
“Anything can happen in this game,” Ichiro said. “It’s not just leading off. That’s the fun part about this game. That’s what it is. Like I tell you guys all the time, I’m ready to pitch, too. Anything is possible.”
Ichiro has been working on a new, more-open stance throughout the offseason, but said hitting third won’t change his general approach at the plate.
“The situation of hitting third won’t change my approach in my hitting style,” he said. “It’ll only change the situation with runners on base.”