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June 6, 2013 at 6:36 PM

M’s-Yankees pregame notes, June 6

 

Ichiro took a seat in a corner of the visiting clubhouse Thursday night a couple of hours before the Yankees met the Mariners. He was light-hearted but hardly introspective, high-spirited but displaying the same veil of enigma for which he was known in almost 12 seasons with the M’s.

He remarked that he wasn’t used to coming into the clubhouse from a strange direction, that he had never come to Safeco Field from downtown, that it was odd seeing Ted Walsh, the visiting clubhouse manager who has switched from the home side this year.

“It’s definitely different,” Ichiro said through an interpreter. “I obviously know this place really well, but it kind of feels distant.”

Ichiro was dealt by the M’s late last July in a move that abetted their youth movement and his desire to play post-season baseball. Seattle manager Eric Wedge said, “I don’t think it could have been handled any better by anybody,” and Ichiro assented, “It definitely worked out for all of us.”

On that occasion, the Yankees were in town, so Ichiro merely traded clubhouses. He conceded that he had little time to process the move then, saying, “As you can see, the time I prepare before the game is very important to me. I had no time. It was just a hectic, busy time.”

Ichiro hit .322 in his 67 games with the Yankees in 2012 (after only .261 with the M’s), but New York hasn’t seen vintage Ichiro in ’13. He’s at .266 with a .303 on-base percentage, a tepid start that he shed little light upon.

He’ll be 40 in October, and his contract runs through 2014. Ichiro betrayed little of his hopes for longevity in his twilight baseball years, saying he probably wouldn’t have believed he’d be in Seattle 12 years and adding, “It’s really difficult to plan out what your future holds.”

He has 2,655 hits. To the question of whether 3,000 is a goal, he said, “I would say no, that’s not a goal I’m after.” And with that, he heeded a high sign from a staffer and headed for the field.

The Day After

Wedge got a text before he got to Safeco from catcher Kelly Shoppach, saying he was ready to be back behind the plate if Wedge needed him, despite Shoppach having caught all 16 innings of the gut-twisting 7-5 loss to the White Sox Wednesday.

“That makes me feel a little better,” Wedge said wryly, “or less guilty.”

So Shoppach was in the lineup again, with the M’s shy of proven catchers as Jesus Sucre recovers from a sore wrist.

“I’ve never played that many innings before, no,” Shoppach said.

The strain on the bullpen is obviously severe, and the M’s brought up Blake Beavan from Tacoma for possible long relief duty and sent Hector Noesi down. But Wedge said he didn’t think there was anybody in the ‘pen unavailable because of the Wednesday marathon.

“We should be all right,” he said.

Wedge said closer Tom Wilhelmsen had been unavailable Wednesday because of work earlier this week, and said he was probably down to infielder Alex Liddi if the game had somehow continued.

“And I understand for them it was going to be Casper,” said Wedge, referring to ex-M’s outfielder Casper Wells. “So it was going to be an interesting next inning.”

As for Shoppach, he was hardly looking for sympathy. Asked how his Wednesday evening went, he said, “I lay down for about 15 minutes. The kids came and gave me big hugs, I got a little bite to eat and we got up and did baths and put the kids to bed. Fatherhood doesn’t stop.

“They need me to be their dad. We had a 6:45 wakeup (Thursday morning). I got them breakfast and took them to school. Nobody else cares how many innings I played yesterday.”

Notes

—   Michael Morse was back in the Mariner lineup at DH after missing seven games with a right quad strain. Wedge said Morse would be conservative in running the bases.

—   Among the statistical pearls to come from the Wednesday marathon was this: It was only the third time in MLB history that one team scored at least five runs in the top of an inning and the opponent matched it in the bottom half.

—    Kyle Seager’s 14th-inning grand slam that tied the White Sox game now puts him in the team lead with 12 two-out RBI. He had 44 with two outs in his breakout 2012 season, second in the AL.

—    The M’s have 71 homers, tied for fourth in the league. But 45 of those are solos, and only four are three-run blasts.

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