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June 10, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Mariners manager Eric Wedge wants to see whether Ichiro’s leadoff spot can jumpstart Chone Figgins

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Turns out Ichiro was told last night after the game that he was going to have tonight off. Mariners manager Eric Wedge called him into his office and delivered the news. Wedge said he wasn’t asking Ichiro’s opinion on the matter, but that it was a pleasant conversation and that he understood why this was happening.
By the way, it’s just for one day.
“I wanted to give Ichiro a day off today. It’s something I’ve been thinking of for a while. I felt like he had as good a swing as I’d seen him have that last day in Chicago, so I wanted to run him through yesterday as well. But I wanted to give him today. I talked to him last night after the game. I think it’s important for him to know when he lays his head down that he’s not going to play tomorrow. When he wakes up in the morning, that he knows he’s not going to play. And come to the ballpark with a totally different mindset.
“To really get the full value. Especially a guy like Ichiro who plays every day. He wants to play every day and I respect that. I want all of our guys to want to play every day.”
Putting Chone Figgins in the leadoff spot?
“He had his greatest success in the leadoff spot,” Wedge said. “It’s a great opportunity to throw him back up there and maybe get him kickstarted. I’ve seen it happen before. So, that was the thought process there.”

Ichiro declined, through his interpreter, to speak to the media. He hasn’t spoken to the Japanese media for the last six days.
Figgins did speak and said he was surprised to be back in the leadoff role, saying he didn’t have an inkling anything was up until media members came up and asked him for interviews.
“Ichi’s still the leadoff guy,” Figgins said quickly. “He’s gets probably a once-in-three-year day off. And he probably could use it. He didn’t miss anything for all those years.”
On his own game, Figgins said he feels he’s had better at-bats lately. He had some hits in the Chicago series and worked some counts rather well.
“I’m just excited to be back in the lineup,” Figgins said. “I’ve been having some good at-bats. The last six or seven games, I’ve been hitting some balls good, walking a little bit. Given me a couple of hits, too. I’m happy to be back in the lineup.”
Figgins said this season has been a bigger struggle than previous years for him because he hasn’t been walking. He said his recent stretch on the road in San Diego and Minneapolis was “probably one of the roughest things I’ve gone through. Because I’ve never been so aggressive and put so many bad balls into play.”
I asked him whether he’s carried some of those poor outings out to the field and the batter’s box the following day. Whether this stretch has been wearing him down.
He said no. Again, he repeated that his at-bats the past week have been better even if the results aren’t there.
Back to Ichiro, Wedge was asked whether he’d ever had a player who benefitted from a day off to the point where it changed his game.
“Yeah, that’s happened a few times with different players that I’ve had in the past,” Wedge said. “We had (Grady) Sizemore over there (in Cleveland). When I told him it was his day off, he hated me for a week. He just did not like it. Different situation, but still. When a mind and a body needs it, A mind and a body needs it.”
So, which needs it more in Ichiro’s case? Both, Wedge said.
Yes, Ichiro stays in fantastic shape and is very strong mentally, but “ultimately he’s a human being and everybody needs a break now and then.”
Why did it take Wedge this long to come to a decision about resting Ichiro? After all, Ichiro has played in all 63 of the team’s games despite his struggles on offense and defense.
“If you look at what he’s accomplished the last 10 years and the consistency he’s had in regard to playing, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt,” Wedge said. “He’s earned the right to go out there and play a little bit longer than some of the other guys. That’s something I have a lot of respect for. But ultimately, I’m the manager and i’ve got to do what I feel like is best for him and the ballclub. And I feel like this is the right thing. So, I think as long as you communicate with your guys along the way and everybody understands, I think it will work out in the end.”

Comments | Topics: Chone Figgins


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