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Eric Wedge ‘leaning’ toward dropping Ichiro from leadoff spot

Jan 25, 2012, 10:48 PM EDT

suzuki_ichiro

The Seattle Mariners remain in a transition phase, attempting to undo the messes of Bill Bavasi while playing in a beefed up AL West division that includes two teams — the Rangers and Angels — that are throwing money around like they just got some magic pants.

A big part of that transition will involve 38-year-old right fielder Ichiro, whose contract runs out after the 2012 season. He’s coming off his worst season in the big leagues and will make $17 million in 2012, money the M’s would no-doubt like to spend elsewhere.

It seems that manager Eric Wedge is already preparing for life without Ichiro, saying in an interview with 710 ESPN in Seattle on Wednesday that there is “a good possibility,” he’ll be dropping Ichiro from his customary spot at the top of the batting order.

“I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about that and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” he said. “I’ve got a vision in mind in regards to what I want to see happen. Obviously I’ve got to work off of Ichiro a little bit, but ultimately I’m going to do what I think’s best to give us the best chance to score runs, because it’s too important for us to make a huge step offensively.”

Pressed on the question of removing Ichiro from the leadoff spot, Wedge admitted that “if you had to put a gun to my head right now I’d probably be leaning in that direction.”

Wedge said his ideal leadoff hitter gets on base a lot – which Ichiro used to do (.370 career OBP), but didn’t in 2011 (.310) – and sees a lot of pitches – something Ichiro has never done. He mentioned Dustin Ackley, who hit .273/.348/.417 in 90 games as a rookie in 2011, as a possible replacement.

Click through for the entire interview, as Wedge talks about other things, too, including Jesus Montero: “We think he’s going to be able to catch.”

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  1. mashoaf - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:09 AM

    finally!

  2. dirtyharry1971 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    17MIL they pay this guy? That should answer any lingering questions as to why the M’s suck

    • rollinghighwayblues - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:11 AM

      You do know he has a career average of .326, played in an average of 159 games a year, has had 10 years of 200+ hits in11 years, right? Not his fault the Mariners are awful.

      • Francisco (FC) - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:10 AM

        Regrettably Ichiro was pedestrian in 2011. It was his first un-spectacular season, because let’s face it, this guy has been spectacular in MLB. The question you have to ask is: has Ichiro aged to the point where he can no longer play at his customary spectacular level? or was 2011 an aberration?

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 26, 2012 at 11:34 AM

        As a fan of the game, I hope it’s the latter, and he rips up the stat sheets in 2012.

  3. cur68 - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:43 AM

    Wedge really said “We think he’s going to be able to catch” about Montero? ‘Course he can catch. He’s Jesus, baby.

  4. yettyskills - Jan 26, 2012 at 3:40 AM

    So where in the lineup is he more effective and who is better at what he does at lead-off?
    Change for change sake makes no sense and is desperate.

    • mashoaf - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      Batting fifth. The Mariners can finally use his knack of getting on base to drive in some much needed runs.

      • yettyskills - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:29 AM

        5th? You put put your top 3 hitters in the 5th slot?

        The Mariners are not the Yankees or Tigers what 4 hitters do the Mariners have that go ahead of Ichiro?

        And who is going to be on base to drive in from the 5th spot?

        Because Ackley who is not much better is any than Jeff Kipnis should just take over?
        Wedge won’t last long in this game with foolish moves like this.

  5. Jonny 5 - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    One half season (Ackley) of having one guy with a better OBP and he’s going to do Ichiro like that huh? I’d be using him as lead off until he proves he should be dropped in batting order for 2012. He’s still stealing 40 bases. Ackley not only played a small sample size but he’s only a 12-20 stolen base per season batter. Wedge is smoking something he should share with the rest of us I’m afraid. I hear they do grow some good gigitty giggity up in Washington, maybe that’s it?.

  6. tcostant - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    I was at all the Woprld Baseball Classic games in San Deigo in 2009. The Japan manager had Ichiro batting third and he looked great in that role. I came away wondering why it was never tried in Seatle. I think this is a better move than most, because I saw first hand how good he was in that role.

  7. paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:55 AM

    He’s 38. His power (what there was of it) is gone. Last year may have just been bad luck (unusually low BABIP for Ichiro), but it may also have portended a change in his underlying skill level. Here is the nice thing about decisions like this, if the guy proves you made a mistake, you can just put him back in the leadoff spot at any time you want.

    • yettyskills - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      LOL

      So change for change sake, like I said

      He is fine to put back in lead off if it does not work out, so why change it?

      • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        Um, no. That actually isn’t what I said….at all.

        There is a reason for change, but it is such a minor type of change that if new data demonstrates that the reasons no longer apply, you can simply hit undo.

  8. foreverchipper10 - Jan 27, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    That commercial is awesome.

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