Eric Wedge has defended players and chided them this season, tried to motivate them and moved them up and down his lineup.
Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo, Brendan Ryan, Justin Smoak – they’ve all been the topic of discussion at one point or another in 2012, usually when Wedge is asked about his inconsistent offense.
Today, he talked about another player: Ichiro Suzuki.
It began with a question about the young lineup he posted against veteran Andy Pettitte and the New York Yankees.
“Why is Smoak batting fifth?” Wedge said, repeating a question. “Because no veteran guy is doing anything – the young guys have got to do it.
You look at every other team we’ll play, they all have two, three, four veteran guys in their lineups producing.”
Someone asked about Ichiro, who has batted third in Seattle’s lineup in each of its 36 games.
“Ichiro is not the prototypical No. 3 hitter,” Wedge said. “He’s not doing a lot of damage. Right now, it’s where he is. I don't know where he'll end up eventually."
Exactly what was Wedge saying?
Since moving Ichiro from his traditional leadoff spot, the Mariners – and Wedge – have tried to find a role in the lineup that best serves the team and the player.
Batting third, Icihro has grounded into a team-leading four double plays, matching Smoak. He’s scored 16 runs, one behind Dustn Ackley’s team lead.
Ichiro is not the prototypical No 3 hitter or leadoff hitter – he’s as likely to put the first pitch he sees in play as take four or five pitches. He can steal bases, but Kyle Seager has as many (3) steals as Ichiro, and Michael Saunders leads the team with four.
Yet Icihro’s on-base percentage (.333) leads the team, and his .288 batting average is second only to Seager’s .295.
There are hitters Wedge can try in the third spot – Seager, Mike Carp, Alex Liddi and others. Ichiro’s abilities are unique and occasionally maddening, but they’re likely best served hitting first in this lineup.