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Ichiro returns to leadoff spot
Ichiro was returned to the leadoff role on Friday as the Mariners abandoned an experiment that had seen him moved to the No. 3 spot to start the season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHICAGO — For the second time this year, the Mariners are hoping a return to the top of the order will restore the fortunes of a struggling veteran hitter.
Ichiro was returned to the leadoff role on Friday as the Mariners abandoned an experiment that had seen him moved to the No. 3 spot to start the season. That had been part of a two-pronged switch that also saw the Mariners attempt to revive the career of Chone Figgins by inserting him in the leadoff spot where he'd shined previously with the Angels.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge pulled the plug on the Figgins experiment one month into the season. Wedge hopes Ichiro has better luck at jump-starting a season.
"I wanted to put him in the best position for him to succeed," Wedge said. "To get him back to leadoff, where he's had the most experience and been most comfortable, I think that's the best way to do it. And if we can get him going up top, that's only going to help the ballclub."
Wedge said he made the decision and discussed it with Ichiro before Wednesday's game in Texas. Ichiro did not play that night.
Ichiro entered Friday night's game here against the Chicago White Sox hitting .271, but with his on-base percentage (OBP) fading the past three weeks to .305. Last season, Ichiro had a career-worst .310 OBP, which is a big reason he was moved out of the leadoff role.
In his first at-bat Friday as the leadoff hitter, he worked a nine-pitch at-bat off White Sox starter Jake Peavy before grounding out. Ichiro was hitless his first three at-bats, but singled in the eighth inning, stole second and scored on a Kyle Seager single.
Seager had taken over Ichiro's previous No. 3 spot on Wednesday in Texas. He hit a two-run homer off Peavy on Friday, his eighth hit — and fifth extra-base hit — in the last three games.
• New Mariners relief pitcher Stephen Pryor joined the team here as the Class AAA replacement for demoted Steve Delabar.
• Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan was named the May Defensive Player of the Month by a 12-member ESPN Stats and Information panel.