Mariners manager says Ichiro won't necessarily hit leadoff
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he has talked with Ichiro recently and wants his right fielder to understand that he might not hit leadoff next season. "I'm still not sure where I'm going to hit him in the order and I want him to understand that," Wedge said.
Seattle Times staff reporter
DALLAS — A move out of the leadoff spot appears possible for Ichiro as the Mariners look toward the 2012 season.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge held his scheduled media session at the baseball winter meetings Tuesday and said he'd met with Ichiro twice this offseason to keep him updated on the team's thinking. Wedge added that he doesn't want Ichiro to read or hear anything about himself in the media first. That could involve a switch out of the leadoff spot he's held since 2001.
"I'm still not sure where I'm going to hit him in the order and I want him to understand that," Wedge said, adding he most recently met with Ichiro a few days ago. "Because ultimately, I'm going to do what I feel like is best for our club.
"I'm going to put out the best nine, in the right order, in the order that I see fit. To score as many runs as we can. And if I feel like that's him leading off, then that's what we're going to do. If I feel like that's him hitting in the three-hole, that's what we're going to do. If I feel like it's him hitting somewhere else, then that's what we're going to do."
Wedge had suggested at season's end that a change to the leadoff spot might be coming. But his comments Tuesday at the Hilton Anatole hotel are some of his strongest yet on the subject and something Ichiro apparently agrees with.
"He told me last year in the middle of the season when I was talking to him that he wants to do whatever's best for the ballclub," Wedge said. "And he wants me to do whatever I feel is best for the ballclub. And I take him at his word and that's what I'm going to do. And he's been tremendous and he's been communicative with me and I appreciate that."
Wedge is waiting to see what the Mariners do at the meetings before committing more strongly to any lineup choices. He's spoken to the Mariners about importing a couple of additional veteran players to help his young team.
But Wedge reiterated that regardless of who is brought in, the team remains committed to its youth movement and growth process. On that front, he said "unless something crazy happens this winter" Mike Carp will be the everyday left fielder, rather than in a platoon with another player or splitting time as a first baseman and designated hitter.
Wedge said he's against platoons for young players.
"It's just real easy to do and I think it's the wrong thing to do," he said. "It's the wrong message to send a player. I'm not smart enough, you're not smart enough, to figure out whether he can or cannot hit against lefties.
"You have to watch him do it and watch him react to it. I've got a pretty good eye for what I feel like he's going to play. From the right side or the left side against right-handers or left-handers, and I think he's going to be able to hit left-handers, too."
Wedge also is not looking at Chone Figgins as a full-time third-base option if he remains with the club. Instead, Wedge said he wants to use Figgins at multiple positions.
The Mariners plan to bring a number of previously injured players, including Franklin Gutierrez, to Seattle in early January to evaluate their progress. Wedge said Gutierrez has gained good muscle weight and could be an "under the radar" contributor offensively.
Wedge added that he'd like to bat Gutierrez in the No. 2 spot if he's ready.
Trending on seattletimes.com
Most viewed photo galleries
The Morning Memo
The Morning Memo jump starts your day with weather, traffic and news
Career Center Blog
Sign up for our newsletter
Get creative suggestions for making your house a home weekly in your inbox!