Kawasaki starting as M’s ready for Yu …

Munenori Kawasak is the only Mariners player to have faced Yu Darvish in a game, having posted a .221 career average against the Japanese ace. (Greg Johns/MLB.com)So it’s finally Yu Darvish Day in Arlington, where the much-anticipated debut of the Rangers new Japanese ace coincides nicely with the arrival of the Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki.

This one will be huge news in Japan, where it’ll be televised live despite the 15-hour time difference.

To add to the storyline, manager Eric Wedge is giving Munenori Kawasaki (above) the start at second base today. He’s the only Mariners hitter to ever have faced Darvish in a game.

Dustin Ackley will DH and Jesus Montero gets the night off.

(UPDATE: 1:25 p.m. PT: Since I wrote this, the word has come out that Montero had a stomach issue this morning, which is why he’s out of the lineup. But that move allows Kawasaki to play.)

As I wrote in my preview story this morning, Ichiro has never faced Darvish in a game — given their 13-year age difference, he was long gone from Japanese pro ball by the time Darvish arrived.

But according to Japanese reporters, Ichiro did face Darvish twice in practice-type situtions before the 2006 and ’09 World Baseball Classics when they were playing for Japan. And Ichiro apparently singled off him once and grounded out in the other unofficial at-bat.

Kawasaki regularly faced Darvish’s Nippon Ham team while with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Pacific League. According to the Mariners research, Kawasaki is a career .221 hitter (19-for-86) against Darvish with one home run, 10 RBIs, two walks and 19 strikeouts.

Kawasaki owned Darvis in 2010 when he went 10-for-19 (.526), but last season he was 3-for-27 (.111) with just three infield singles.

Game time is 5:05 p.m. PT and it should be a good one. Here’s the Mariners full lineup:

Chone Figgins LF
Dustin Ackley DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Justin Smoak 1B
Kyle Seager 3B
Michael Saunders CF
Miguel Olivo C
Munenori Kawasaki 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Hector Noesi RHP

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