John Lok/Seattle Times
Mariners manager Eric Wedge just confirmed moments ago that he is moving Ichiro to the No. 3 spot in the batting order to begin the regular season. Chone Figgins will get first crack at replacing Ichiro atop the order.
Wedge also said Dustin Ackley is the leading contender to hit second, but others will get a look in that spot as well.
“I’ve done a lot of thinking about it this winter, of course,” Wedge said. “I’ve talked about it a lot with coaches and Jack (Zduriencik) and everyone. I feel like the bottom line is for us to have the best lineup, one through nine, out there. I want our lineup to be extended. I feel like our est opportunity to score runs is with Ichiro hitting third for us. it helps the guy in front of him, it helps the guy behind him.”
Wedge said Figgins will get “the first shot at” hitting leadoff.
“I’m confident that Figgins can get back to his old self as a leadoff hitter,” Wedge said. “That’s when he was the Figgins that produced, that got on base, that scored runs. That was really a pain for opposing teams when he did lead off for Anaheim.
“I feel like, to give him the greatest chance to get back on track and succeed is to give him that opportunity leading off for us.”
Wedge said Ackley would hit second if the team broke camp today.
“We’re not going to set either the No. 1 or 2 in stone right now,” he added. “I feel strong about those two up top right now and we’ll take a look at it all spring.”
We’ve already spoken about this the past two days, but the team has little choice other than Figgins for the leadoff role at the moment. Besides the fact he’s the guy with the most major league experience in the role, the Mariners would like to recoup some of his value and the best way to do that is getting him back to being one of the game’s more feared leadoff men.
That’s why, in reading the situation two days ago, it was pretty easy to conclude what the team was about to do. You can’t simply look at an MLB team the way you would a rotisseire-league squad where stats and only stats rule the day. There are so many other considerations that come into play when dealing with professional baseball at this level and two of them — money and politics — can often trump all else.
And in this case, when you follow the money trail, it often leads to conclusions you would not get merely by studying 2011 statistics alone. Anyhow, that’s just my take. You don’t have to agree. But this is the direction the team has chosen.
Ichiro told reporters he’s been mentally preparing for the move all winter long and will do what’s best for the team. He was asked whether he’ll feel strange batting someplace other than where he has since 2001.
“Anything can happen in this game, it’s not just leading off,” he said, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “That’s the fun part about this game. Like I tell you guys all the time, I’m ready to pitch too. So, like I said, anything is possible.”
Ichiro said he doesn’t anticipate changing his approach or hitting style in his new role.
“The situation of hitting third won’t change my approach or hitting style,” he said. “It will only change the situation with runners on base, that’s it.”
The wider batting stance he’s been using this spring wasn’t done because of an expected move in the order. Rather, he added, it was done: “To perform better.”
“We all make changes and adjustments to perform better,” he said. “That’s the only reason.”
Asked how Figgins would do as a leadoff hitter, he said: “I don’t know. But we all have to hope this is the right thing for the team. And if this is it, then we’ll have to give it our best and play to our performance (level).”