Manager Eric Wedge said Thursday that he’s probably going to try Ichiro Suzuki somewhere other than at the top of the order this season.
“It’s as much to do with his teammates as it has to do with him with regard to the collective nine that we’re putting down on paper,” Wedge said. “I haven’t made any firm decisions. I made it very clear over the winter I was thinking about it. I’m even further down the road to where I’m leaning in that direction to have (Suzuki) hit somewhere else.”
Trying Ichiro as a No. 3 hitter was a popular topic for debate in Seattle when he was in his prime. Back when he was slugging .420-.450 each season, it would have made a lot of sense to put him in a position to drive in more runs.
Now, though, it’s hard to see how Ichiro would be of use anywhere except the leadoff spot. Since his strong 2009 season, he slipped to .315/.369/.394 in 2010 and .272/.310/.335 last year.
Wedge mentioned Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins as other possibilities to hit leadoff for the Mariners. Ackley is the only one of the three likely to be more productive than Ichiro, and given that he actually has some power, he’d seem to make a whole lot more sense hitting second or third.
That’s particularly the case given that the Mariners have routinely trotted out the weakest bottom of the orders of any AL squad the last few years. Shortstop Brendan Ryan stands as the likely No. 9 hitter at the moment. The third baseman — either Figgins or, preferably, Kyle Seager — could hit eighth. Mariners leadoff hitters so rarely come up with men on base that their RBI potential is wasted. Consider that Ichiro hasn’t driven in even 50 runs in a year since 2007. He had at least 60 RBI in five of his first seven seasons.
The only reason for Wedge to shift Ichiro now is for appearances. What the Mariners need is for Ichiro to at least bounce back to 2010 form and set the table for Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak below him.