Jacoby Ellsbury leaves game with heel injury

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Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury turned his ankle returning to first base on a Cliff Lee pickoff attempt in this afternoon’s game against the Phillies. He initially stayed in the game but was taken out in the bottom of the second.

The Red Sox were being cautious and Ellsbury doesn’t think it’s a big deal, according to Chris Girandola:

Ellsbury said if it had been a regular-season contest he would have continued playing.

“I told (Red Sox trainer Rick Jameyson) ‘Hey, tape it up and let’s go,’ but they wanted to be cautious about it,” Ellsbury said.

Farrell said Ellsbury would be re-evaluated on Monday, but the Red Sox skipper was “cautiously optimistic” Ellsbury would be available for the rest of spring training after Monday’s contest against the Orioles and an off-day on Tuesday.

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?