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September 17, 2013 at 2:05 PM

Raul Ibanez open to returning for another season

The Mariners have dropped seven of their last eight games heading into tonight's clash in Detroit.

The Mariners have dropped seven of their last eight games heading into tonight’s clash in Detroit.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Mariners minor league pitcher Forrest Snow, a former University of Washington star, has been suspended 50 games without pay for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. This is not a case of performance enhancing drugs, but one of the so-called recreational variety. 

Raul Ibanez has been named the Mariners’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, given out annually to players who combine the former all-star’s penchant for high level play with outstanding community service. Ibanez was down in the dugout speaking about that this afternoon when he was asked whether he’d like to play again next season.

“Yeah, I could play another year,” he said. “It’s not something I really dwell upon. It’s not something that I really mull over or lose sleep over in the moment. But yeah, I think if you asked me right now I think yeah, I definitely want to play another year.”

Ibanez has hit 27 home runs and produced an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .812 in 459 plate appearances, compared to 429 with the Yankees last season. He’s already logged 765 2/3 innings as an outfielder this season, compared to only 651 last year.

That extra outfield time has taken its toll in the second half.

Ibanez hit .267 with 24 homers and an OPS of .892 in the first half. That’s fallen to .221 with three homers and a .658 OPS in the second half.

Clearly, at age 41, Ibanez playing the field day in and day out for such a big part of this season caught up to him. Remember, he was only brought here to play in a part-time role with limited outfield duty. The Mariners stuck him in there every day because so many of the other bats they were counting on came up short or got hurt.

But Ibanez says he still feels physically strong. It’s the mental part, he added, that’s the challenge. The grind, if you will.

“Staying locked in for six months in a row becomes harder as you get older,” he said. “But the physical part, I feel like I can play this game physically for a while, I guess. That doesn’t mean that I will. But I still feel like I can.”

Ibanez had a couple of hits last night. He says he prides himself on being conditioned to finish a season as strong as he started it. That may have lulled in August after the torrid first-half pace. But he’s hitting .273 with a .909 OPS so far in September.

In the role he was initially envisioned for, it’s not a stretch to see him doing the job in 2014.

Just as an aside, Ibanez was asked today by a Detroit media member about his take on Tiger Stadium. Ibanez is one of only a handful of active players to have hit home runs both at Tiger Stadium and here at Comerica Park, which opened in 2000.

“It was a great ballpark,” he said. “I mean, when you were walking down the tunnel there was a urinal in the tunnel and I remember thinking to myself ‘Babe Ruth may have used that urinal’,” he said.

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