The easiest thing for a Seattle Mariners manager to do on daily basis was putting Ichiro Suzuki's name at the top of the batting order. It's a given. He is unbelievably durable. He is always ready to play. He always wants to play.
But for the first time in 255 straight games, Ichiro is not in the Mariners starting lineup.
There has been much speculation and debate amongst the media and Mariners fans about if he should be sat down.
Well manager Eric Wedge put an end to it, deciding to sit the struggling right fielder for Friday's game in Detroit against the Tigers.
The last game he didn't start was on Aug. 31, 2009 against the Angels. He missed a few games because of a sore hamstring.
Of the Mariners' 1,683 that have been played since his debut, he has played in 1,651 games and started 1,635.
He will be on the bench, "watching a big league baseball game" as Wedge likes to say.
Ichiro's batting average has fallen to .252, while his on-base percentage has dropped to .306. He is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and has just three hits in his last 34 at-bats. Since May 1, he's hitting .189 (27-for-156) with a .245 OBP.
This will be a one day rest. Ichiro will be back in the lineup tomorrow.
Wedge told Ichiro about the day off after last night's loss. It wasn't a meeting where Wedge queried Ichiro about taking a day off.
"Well, I didn’t ask him," he said. "But it wasn’t like just talking yesterday for the first time. I’ve been communicating with him. I just told him I’m going to give you the day off tomorrow. He understood and appreciated me bringing him in."
It's another sign that Wedge is going to do what he wants when it comes the field management of this team. He made the decision on his own. And in doing so, he was well aware of what Ichiro has accomplished in his career. It's why he waited as long as he did to do this.
"If you look at what he’s accomplished the last 10 years, the consistency he’s had in regards to playing, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt," Wedge said. "He’s earned the right to go out there and play a little bit longer maybe some of the other guys. That’s something I have a great deal of respect for. But, ultimately, I’m the manager, and I’ve got to do what I feel like is best for him and the ball club. I feel like this is the right thing."
It's not as if Ichiro is showing any signs of frustration or stress from all of this. If he has, Wedge hasn't seen them.
"He’s so consistent with his approach to the day," Wedge said. "But he’s a human being. And I really do believe he’s feeling it a little bit. I think that’s natural."
Add in the fact that Ichiro is age 37 and the years of wear and tear.
"When a mind and a body needs it, a mind and a body needs it.," Wedge said.
Is it more mind or body?
“I think it’s both," Wedge said. "He’s been playing baseball for a long time and he does a great job. He’s in great shape. He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough. He has so many things that are reasons why he’s been so successful. But ultimately, he’s a human being and everybody needs a break now and then.”
Ichiro turned down pregame interview requests before the game through his translator Antony Suzuki. He has not spoken to the Japanese media in almost 10 days.
Chone Figgins did talk about being in the lead-off spot. He isn't planning on being there tomorrow.
“No, it’s not that big of a deal," Figgins said. "Ichi is still the leadoff hitter. He just gets a once-in-a-three-year day off. Which he probably could use. He’s been successful for all these years. But for me, I’m just happy to be back in the lineup. I didn’t even know I was hitting leadoff until you guys wanted to talk to me and I figured maybe something was up.”
For Figgins, it's not so much about where he's batting in the lineup but the approach he's taking to the plate.
"I’ve always struggled in the beginning, but this year I haven’t been walking," he said. "That’s the key to it. Usually I’m getting in deeper counts, putting together better at-bats. In that stretch I went through, I was swinging a little too early and swinging at pitcher’s pitches. And that’s something I usually don’t do and I was doing a little too much of that.”
45 Erik Bedard LHP
- 9 Chone Figgins (S) 3B
- 26 Brendan Ryan SS
- 17 Justin Smoak (S) 1B
- 29 Jack Cust (L) DH
- 4 Adam Kennedy (L) 2B
- 21 Franklin Gutierrez CF
- 8 Carlos Peguero (L) RF
- 56 Greg Halman LF
- 5 Chris Gimenez C
- 14 Austin Jackson CF
- 57 Casper Wells RF
- 26 Brennan Boesch (L) LF
- 24 Miguel Cabrera 1B
- 41 Victor Martinez (S) DH
- 27 Jhonny Peralta SS
- 25 Ryan Raburn 2B
- 13 Alex Avila (L) C
- 29 Danny Worth 3B
31 Brad Penny RHP