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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 3, 2009 at 5:53 PM

Wakamatsu: Griffey could be in right field for opener

We just had our pre-game session with Don Wakamatsu, and he was mostly non-commital about who will fill in for Ichiro in right field and at leadoff, and who will fill his roster spot.

The Mariners are going to wait until after tomorrow’s game to make the announcement of all the final decisions that have to be made. For one thing, the players themselves don’t know yet, in many cases, and for another, they are being cautious in case a last-minute injury changes their plans. They don’t want a guy to know he was going to be sent down if they suddenly need him on the roster. That makes sense — every team handles it this way.

Perhaps the most interesting response came when I asked Wakamatsu if he expected Ken Griffey Jr. to be in the lineup on Monday on the artificial turf of the Metrodome, with a lefty, Francisco Liriano, on the mound.

“Yes, I do. Yes,” he replied. “He could play right. We discussed that inside (the clubhouse) just a little while ago. There might be a possibility of him playing right, although tomorrow (Saturday) he is playing in left. He is open to doing anything we want, and he said that from day one.”

Asked the advantage of having Griffey in right in Minnesota, he said: “The smaller baggy in right, and the fact he played (right field) the last two years.”

Wakamatsu also said that Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez are both options to hit leadoff.

More from Wakamatsu:

On talking to Ichiro about going on the DL: “We ended up talking to him down in my office. It was an emotional visit with him. I told him straight out that I have watched him for six years from the other dugout, and to watch him out by himself on a Sunday day game, I have never questioned how tough he is, and his dedication to the game and to the fans.

“To sit there and say this if the best thing for him was awfully emotional for him and me. He talked about how much he wanted to be with the team in Minnesota. It was a tough, tough decision, but we feel it’s the best decision. We want to make sure he is healthy and will be with us all year. We’re just glad we caught this when we did. The doctors did a good job.”

On Ichiro’s reaction: “This is a warrior and someone I am very glad to have on this club. The players on this club obviously know what he was willing to risk. It wasn’t something we wanted. It was a tough conversation to tell a man of his stature that he wasn’t going to be with the team.”

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