Mariners Insider Blog

Figgins on batting leadoff: 'Like going home'

In his first season managing the Seattle Mariners, Eric Wedge was the face of patience as he played rookies at most every position and allowed game after game to be won - or lost - by youngsters.

Two weeks into spring training, 2012, Wedge has dropped a major  change on his team - installing Chone Figgins as the Mariners leadoff hitter and making Ichiro Suzuki a No. 3 hitter in the lineup.

“It’s like going home again, emotionally and mentally. It was very emotional for me," Figgins said.

His best seasons came with the Angels, when he was batting first, and Figgins said the transition to hitting second in Seattle didn't go well - not because of where he was hitting, but because he got away from what he did best.

"I'm not a pure hitter.  My style leading off? To make you work. To be a pain in the butt for the opposing pitcher from the first pitch of the game on," Figgins said. " I’m not a pure hitter, but I’ll give you hell every at-bat."

At age 34, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound infielder is the likely opening day third baseman, a fact that many Seattle fans may balk at. A career .280 hitter, Figgins signed a four-year, $36 million deal before the 20011 season - and in two years has batted .236 as a Mariner.

Booed last year before he lost his job, then missed the final two months with a hip injury, Figgins may not get the benefit of the doubt from Mariners fans this year. Ichiro, a leadoff man for all but 13 games in 11 seasons, will now bat third.

It doesn't seem a perfect fit, given Ichiro's style - he is always among the league-leaders in infield hits. Wedge, however, thought a change at the top was required, and he's clearly hoping to invigorate both Figgins and Ichiro.

If one or both stumble in their new roles, the new-look Seattle lineup is going to struggle yet again.