Mariners' Suzuki loses leadoff spot
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP)
The lineup change Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge hinted at during the offseason is going to become permanent.
It won't be Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the Mariners batting order to begin the 2012 season.
Wedge announced Tuesday that he will move Suzuki from his traditional leadoff spot down to No. 3 in the Mariners batting order. It's not a simple spring training experiment; Wedge is set to make Suzuki's move permanent and he will figure out who is Seattle's best option to take over in the leadoff role.
''I've done a lot of thinking about it this winter. ... Bottom line, it's for us to have the best lineup 1 through 9 out there,'' Wedge said. ''I want our lineup to be extended. I think our best opportunity is for Ichiro to be hitting third for us.''
It'll be the first time in his career that Suzuki will be somewhere permanently other than the leadoff spot. He's had only a handful of games at other spots in the lineup through his 11-year career in Seattle. He's coming off the worst year of his career in the US, hitting .272, the first time he's failed to hit at least .300. Suzuki's 184 hits were also a career low.
The first option to replace Suzuki will be Chone Figgins, although Wedge said he's not set on his Nos. 1 and 2. Figgins has struggled since coming over from the Los Angeles Angels and signing a $36 million, four-year deal. After thriving in the leadoff spot with the Angels, Figgins has hit just .236 in his two seasons in Seattle, including .188 in an injury-shortened 2011 season.
Figgins is likely to be the Mariners' third baseman when the season begins.
''I'm confident Figgins can get back to his old self as a leadoff hitter,'' Wedge said. ''That's when he was the Figgins that produced, that got on base, that scored runs, that was a pain for opposing teams when he did lead off for Anaheim.''
In his eight seasons with the Angels, Figgins hit .291 with a .363 on-base percentage, batting leadoff for most of that time. Wedge said his initial thought is that young second base prospect Dustin Ackley will hit second in the Mariners order. In just over half of the 2011 season, Ackley proved many of the scouts correct, hitting .273 with 16 doubles, seven triples and six home runs, and driving in 36 runs in 90 games.