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September 3, 2009 at 5:52 PM

Ichiro set to take aim at milestone targets

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Ichiro has told Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu that his problematic calf muscle is starting to feel better, even though he’s now playing daily on it. That means, for now, it’s all systems “go” this weekend as Ichiro prepares to topple one and possibly two big milestones.
The first to fall will be his 2,000th hit, which he’s only seven away from. Odds are that he’ll get that in this series here in Oakland if he’s allowed to play all four games.
“We’ll try to keep an open dialogue if he needs a day,” Wakamatsu said.
Ichiro has not gone hitless in consecutive games since Aug. 13-15 of last season, so he should come close, as I said, to No. 2,000 by Saturday or Sunday. The Japanese media is certainly on-hand and ready for it all to go down this weekend, having sent in reinforcements.
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If ichiro somehow goes on a hitting rampage the next two days, he’d have a shot at the fastest 2,000-hits ever — a mark held by Al Simmons over 1,390 contests. Ichiro has played 1,398 games, so, odds are, he’ll not catch Simmons. George Sisler sits second at 1,414 games, so Ichiro has an excellent shot at besting his mark.
We know how much Sisler means to Ichiro in the context of history and both their places in it so that is no small feat.
Ichiro will also become the first player to reach 2,000 hits in under 10 seasons. This is his ninth, but remember, they play more games per season than they did when Simmons and Sisler played.
The other big mark will then be Ichiro’s ninth consecutive 200-hit season, which he is a dozen shy of at the moment. That would break the record he shares with Willie Keeler , who accomplished the feat from 1894-1901.

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In other news, Ken Griffey Jr. is back in the lineup, as expected, while Jose Lopez moves back to his regular second base spot after a stint at first. Lopez told me his teammates spent much of yesterday kidding around with him about being the new first baseman.
“I was like ‘What’s the big deal?’,” he said. “I played 15 games there last season.”
The difference is, he was replacing Miguel Cairo back then, with Richie Sexson already released as was Jose Vidro a month later. Yesterday, Lopez was replacing Mike Carp, a top prospect with the Mariners who might have a future at the first base position.
When I asked Lopez what position he saw himself at, he laughed.
“That’s not me who gets to decide,” he said.
But he pledged to go down to winter ball this year and work at improving his skills at second base.
“That’s what I do every year,” he said. “I try to get better at my position. This year, it’s no different.”
The lineups:
MARINERS (70-64)
RF Ichiro
CF Franklin Gutierrez
2B Jose Lopez
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Bill Hall
1B Mike Carp
C Kenji Johjima
SS Jack Wilson
RHP Ian Snell
OAKLAND (59-74)
3B Adam Kennedy
CF Rajai Davis
RF Ryan Sweeney
DH Jack Cust
C Kurt Suzuki
2B Mark Ellis
LF Eric Patterson
1B Daric Barton
SS Cliff Pennington
RHP Brett Tomko



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