Eric Wedge ‘leaning’ toward dropping Ichiro from leadoff spot

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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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Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.