SEATTLE A little older. A little grayer. But still unmistakable and a fan favorite.
Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, now in his third year with the Miami Marlins, returned Monday to Safeco Field for the first time since June 10-12, 2014, when he was playing for the New York Yankees.
Suzuki, 43, started Monday for just the second time this season — and did so in left field, a position he never played in 11-plus seasons for the Mariners before a June 23, 2102 trade sent him to the Yankees.
While he chose not to talk to reporters prior to Monday’s game, he previously indicated he was keenly anticipating his return to Seattle.
"It is going home, and it’s good to be going home," he told MLB.com. "Seeing the fans, I want to be able to show them that I’m still healthy and I’m happy, and I’m still playing. Hopefully, I can show them that."
Monday marked Suzuki’s 11th game at Safeco Field as a visiting player. The previous 10, all with the Yankees, saw him mange just seven hits in 34 at-bats — a very un-Suzuki-like .206 average.
He entered Monday’s game with just one hit this season in 12 at-bats after batting .291 last year in 143 games for the Marlins. That one hit, a single, was No. 3,031 in his 17-year career.
The first 2,533 came as a Mariner, a number that remains a franchise record.
Suzuki is also the franchise leader in batting average at .322 (minimum 2,000 plate appearances), stolen bases with 438 and triples with 79. He ranks second in runs and games, and third in doubles and total bases.
The Mariners haven’t forgotten.
They will conclude their homestand at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday by giving away Ichiro Suzuki double-bobblehead dolls to the first 20,000 fans through the gates.
ON THE MEND
Shortstop Jean Segura remains on track to rejoin the active roster Friday in Oakland when eligible to be activated from the disabled list.
He suffered a strained right hamstring April 10 in the home opener against Houston. He was batting .313 with 10 hits in 32 at-bats through the season’s first eight games.
General manager Jerry Dipoto said it hadn’t yet been determined whether Segura will be sent this week on a minor-league rehab assignment.
Reliever Steve Cishek worked one scoreless inning Monday in a rehab start for Double-A Arkansas in a 3-1 victory at San Antonio (Padres). It was his first outing since he underwent October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
Cishek, 30, faced and retired three hitters, one on a infield grounder and two on fly outs. He threw 11 of 18 pitches for strikes.
Plans call for Cishek to make another three or four appearances before, barring a setback, being activated to the big-league roster. That puts him in line to return at some point before the end of the month.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the Mariners rank 29th in making hard contact at the plate, according to video review analysis by Inside Edge, a scouting and information service serving major-league and minor-league teams.
The Mariners have a hard-hit rate of just 11.5 percent. Only San Diego, at 11.4 percent is worse. Oddly, perhaps, American League West-leading Houston ranks 28th at 12.1 percent. (Credit the Mariners’ staff for much of that.)
Boston leads the majors at 19.2 percent, followed by Washington at 18.4 percent and Oakland at 18.2. The Mariners’ current opponent, Miami, ranks 14th at 15.6 percent.
Three things to note heading into Tuesday’s pitching matchup between right-hander Yovani Gallardo and Miami lefty Wei-Yin Chen:
***Gallardo is 5-1 with a 1.90 ERA in eight career starts against the Marlins. Chen is 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA in eight starts against the Mariners, including 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in five starts at Safeco Field.
***Giancarlo Stanton is 5-for-16 in his career against Gallardo, and A.J. Ellis is even better at 5-for-10. But Dee Gordon is 2-for-13 with five strikeouts, and Marcell Ozuna is 1-for-7.
***None of the Mariners have had much success against Chen. Robinson Cano is 8-for-34, Kyle Seager is 2-for-23, Mike Zunino is 1-for-11 and Leonys Martin is 1-for-9. Slightly better: Danny Valencia is 5-for-20, and Nelson Cruz is 3-for-12.
Arkansas right-hander Andrew Moore finally gave up a run, but just one in seven innings after replacing Cishek in the Travelers’ victory at San Antonio.
That one run came on a homer by Nick Schultz in the fourth inning and ended Moore’s season-long scoreless streak at 14 innings. While Moore got no-decisions in his two scoreless six-inning starts, he got the victory in Monday’s game.
Moore’s season totals: 19 innings, one run, nine hits, three walks and 16 strikeouts for an 0.47 ERA. He entered the season ranked as the organization’s No. 8 prospect in the TNT Top 10.
***Arkansas catcher Tyler Marlette was picked as the player of the week (plus) in the Texas League for April 6-16 after batting .414 (12-for-29) with eight RBIs in seven games.
Mitch Haniger is just the ninth rookie to have at least 10 RBIs in April. (He entered Monday with 11.) The others are Jesus Montero (13 in 2012), Kenji Johjima (12, 2006), Ichiro Suzuki (11, 2001), Danny Tartabull (16, 1986), Alvin Davis (17, 1984), Jim Maler (16, 1982), Juan Bernhardt (13, 1977) and Ruppert Jones (12, 1977)…reliever Evan Marshall turns 27 on Tuesday.
It was three years ago Tuesday — April 18, 2014 — that the Mariners suffered an 8-4 walk-off loss while playing for the first time at Marlins Park in Miami.
Stanton ended the game with a grand slam against Yoervis Medina. The winning pitcher was now-Mariners reliever Steve Cishek, who is currently on a rehab assignment at Double-A Arkansas in his recovery from hip surgery,
The Mariners and Marlins continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field when right-hander Yovani Gallardo (0-1 with a 6.30 ERA) opposes Marlins lefty Wei-Yin Chen (1-0, 7.00).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners