Mariners manager Eric Wedge, as expected, got peppered with some questions about sitting Ichiro tonight. Wedge said Ichiro will be back in the lineup tomorrow and will be leading off going forward.
After he said that, I asked him how having Ichiro in the leadoff spot actually benefits the Mariners. Remember, he has a .286 on-base percentage for the season, with a .206 OPB out of the No. 1 spot.
“This is what we’re trying to do, give him a period of time here to have success and to get it back going again,” Wedge replied. “That’s where he’s most comfortable. That’s where he likes being, so, we’re just trying to give him a period of time here where, hopefully, he can find it and take off from there.
“We gave him a couple of months in the three-hole,” he added. “We felt like we needed to him to make the move there. Now, we’re going to give him a period of time here in the one-hole and hopefully he can get himself going.”
So, I asked, does Ichiro get less time to adjust to the one-hole since he’s done it before, unlike his three-spot experience — which had been nil until this year in the majors.
“I don’t know,” Wedge said. “We’ll play it by ear. It’s a long season. We’ll give him a period of time and go fromt there.”
Clearly, for anyone watching the games, Ichiro lately has been chopping a lot of balls back towards the mound or the right side of the infield, especially with runners on base in key situations. Wedge said Ichiro’s “very unorthodox” mechanical approach makes it difficult to get a read on where he’s at hitting-wise.
“I think he’s best when he stands through the ball a bit more and you get more of the hard ground balls or line drives, which I think leads to greater success,” Wedge said.
Again, aside for those two home runs in Chicago more than two weeks ago and the odd hit or so, he hasn’t been hitting line drives. Wasn’t hitting them in the three-spot either, even though his line drive rate statistically remains high at 24.2 percent. I think one reason for that line drive rate is that it isn’t differentiating much between true line drives that scorch to the gaps and are virtually uncatchable, versus other types that are more like low flyballs hanging up long enough for outfielders to run in and easily catch them.
Anyhow, that’s one guess. I just don’t see him really driving the ball at all this year.
On the catching front, Jesus Montero gets another start today. The Mariners will likely use all three catchers behind the plate in this series because they don’t have the DH in a National League park. So, you get Montero today, then either Miguel Olivo or John Jaso against the righty tomorrow, followed by whoever didn’t go getting a start in Wednesday’s day game after a nght contest.
The way Montero is hitting right now, you really don’t want to sit him out if you don’t have to. In other words, the natural call was to get Montero in there first tonight to keep his hot bat productive. He could even get another start tomorrow if he notches three hits tonight. But the M’s won’t use him three days in a row, so that would leave either Olivo or Jaso for the Wednesday game versus another righty.
LF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
3B Kyle Seager
C Jesus Montero
RF Casper Wells
1B Justin Smoak
2B Dustin Ackley
SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Hector Noesi
SS Willie Bloomquist
2B Aaron Hill
RF B.J. Upton
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
3B Josh Bell
LHP Wade Miley