Homefield advantage and drawn-out NLDS schedule would be huge for the Phillies

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Philadelphia has edged past Atlanta atop the NL East, which means the Phillies also currently have the record in the league. Homefield advantage is always nice, of course, but as Todd Zolecki of MLB.com notes the ability to choose the seven-day or eight-day schedule for the NLDS could be even more beneficial to the Phillies.
By choosing the eight-day NLDS that includes three off days around just five games the Phillies would be able to rely exclusively on their amazing trio of Roy Halladay (2.36 ERA), Roy Oswalt (3.09), and Cole Hamels (3.06) without any starts being made on short rest.
By comparison the seven-day NLDS would force them to either give Joe Blanton and his 5.16 ERA a start or use the Game 1 starter (presumably Halladay) on short rest for Game 4. And if they were to choose Blanton, then Halladay would be lined up to start Game 5 on extra rest because of the extra day off thrown in between.
In any scenario the Phillies’ exceptional Big Three gives them a huge edge throughout the playoffs and capturing homefield advantage is crucial given their 47-28 record in Philadelphia, but the right to also choose their schedule would make things even tougher on their first-round opponents.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?