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February 10, 2009 at 4:37 PM

Ichiro to pitch in WBC? Nope

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This is one of those pre-spring training stories that fans get all revved up about for five minutes and then turns into nothing later on. When news broke yesterday that Ichiro had thrown 56 pitches on Saturday in a bullpen session for Team Japan ahead of the upcoming World Baseball Classic, talk surfaced about how his manager might use him in an emergency situation.
That is, until the boss at his day job saw photos of Ichiro pitching.
“He’s not going to pitch,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told me within the hour.
Zduriencik first heard about Ichiro’s bullpen session, like the rest of the world outside of the Japanese squad, on Monday afternoon. He was shown some photos as well.
His first reaction, he said, was that Ichiro “looked like he was out there having fun.”
And Zduriencik says he sees nothing wrong with that. But it isn’t about to carry over into a game. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d also say the bullpen sessions stop here. Let’s not forget, Ichiro’s arm is a key part of his defense. Probably also needs it working right to get those 200 hits per year. Now probably isn’t the best time to start changing up his workout routine, no matter how cool some might think it would be to see him pitch.
“He isn’t going to pitch,” Zduriencik repeated.
End of that story.
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In other Mariners news, catcher Kenji Johjima arrived in Arizona last night, then met in Peoria with new manager Don Wakamatsu in his office for over an hour today. Johjima and Wakamatsu then headed to the field, where Johjima took some throws and took batting practice. He’ll work out again tomorrow, then head back to Japan for the start of the WBC.
Wakamatsu told me after today’s workout that Johjima is being very serious about his approach to this year’s camp. It’s one reason he wanted to get in early and meet the new manager, knowing he’ll miss a lot of time with the WBC looming.
Part of what the Mariners will do differently this year, compared to last, is plenty of individualized instruction with players before and after the regular team workouts. There was a bit of that done a year ago, with Johjima in particular, but this year will see just about every player in camp targetted for added instruction at one point or another.
Relations between pitchers and catchers, especially signal-calling — a big issue early last season — will receive plenty of attention this year. Hitters will also be given individualized work on pitch selection, on-base ability and bunting, more so than in the past.
Bench coach Ty Van Burkleo will run the camp day-to-day, as Eddie Rodriguez did last year. Weigh-ins and physicals are Friday, with the first workout for pitchers and catchers on Saturday.
Photo Credits: Sanspo

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