SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle can exhale. Ichiro is OK. Things didn't look so good Sunday after Mariners center fielder Ichiro Suzuki took one of Justin Verlander's fastballs slightly above his right knee, causing him to hobble around a bit before exiting the game. But Ichiro, Seattle's iron man who has played in 489 of 490 games dating back to 2004, and 93 consecutive games prior to Monday's series opener against the Orioles, was back in the leadoff spot Monday.
He was set as the designated hitter, although manager John McLaren said that was his call, because Ichiro wanted to play in center. "I felt like with everything he's been through in the last week, with the All-Star Game festivities, to the contract negotiations, the press conference, him getting hit, I thought it was a good time to let him DH and catch his breath," McLaren said. "It was a scare for us yesterday, but he feels real good, so it's a big relief for us to hear that news." McLaren got a call from team trainer Rick Griffin, who dialed the skipper just as he was getting his morning coffee around 10 a.m. The ball missed Ichiro's kneecap and didn't hit any bone, making it a pretty quick injury to get over. Reserve Jason Ellison started in center in place of Ichiro on Monday. Trivia time: Sunday's game against the Tigers marked the eighth anniversary of Safeco Field's opening. Where does Seattle rank in terms of wins at home since opening its new ballpark? Healing up: In addition to avoiding a huge scare with Ichiro, the return of starter Horacio Ramirez to the rotation on Monday is a good sign for the Mariners, whose injuries have quickly been healing. Richie Sexson, Kenji Johjima, Raul Ibanez and Adrian Beltre have all experienced some type of injury this season, but have avoided any time on the disabled list. Felix Hernandez, Jeff Weaver, Chris Reitsma and Cesar Jimenez have all spent time on the DL. Cha Seung Baek (shoulder inflammation), Jon Huber (forearm strain), Mark Lowe (elbow surgery), Sean White (biceps tendinitis) and Arthur Rhodes (torn UCL, left elbow) are still out with injuries, although some are closer than others to returning. Lowe and Rhodes have missed every game this season, and Rhodes most likely will miss the remainder of the season. Lowe continues to throw at the Mariners' Double-A affiliate in West Tennessee and is growing closer to returning from right elbow surgery. His latest rehabilitation outing saw his velocity drop a bit, from 91-93 mph to 88-91, but McLaren said that doesn't concern the team at all. "He's building his arm up," McLaren said. "We're letting him go on his own pace, and he'll let us know when he's ready." Lineup shuffles: McLaren shuffled Monday's lineup a little bit, putting first baseman Richie Sexson in the six spot. McLaren is trying to find combinations that work the best. He said he hadn't rearranged things very often since becoming manager because the team was jelling well, but is ready to see if changes have any affect. "Now I'm starting to tweak a little bit and see if we can find a little bit better combination," McLaren said. "Maybe we'll go back to the old combination, but I wasn't going to change something that was working so well." Running away: McLaren was unhappy with how Seattle's pitchers handled baserunners after Sunday's loss to the Tigers, prompting him to address the situation with his pitching staff. The Tigers stole five bases, the first time Seattle allowed that many since the Yankees did it on May 11, 2005. "We've done a great job [managing runners] the whole year," McLaren said. "I'll just say it was something that happened yesterday, and I don't see it happening again, to be honest with you." Down on the farm: Mariners prospect Adam Jones continued his incredibly successful season Sunday by blasting his 23rd home run of the season in Triple-A Tacoma's 10-9 win. Jones was 3-for-4 and has four home runs and seven RBIs in his last five games. Mariners recent draft selection Matt Mangini was 2-for-3 for the Everett AquaSox, Seattle's Class A short season affiliate. Pitcher Nolan Gallagher, who shut out Salem-Keizer over seven innings while allowing just four hits and no walks, was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week. Gallagher, a 22-year-old righty, has an 0.96 ERA to lead the league. In the bag: The Mariners Wives raised $27,000 for First Place, an agency that serves homeless children in the Seattle area, through their annual Mystery Mariners Grab Bag charity event on Saturday. In the event, fans purchased paper bags with an autographed baseball inside for $50, although they didn't know whose autograph they received until opening the bag. All of the baseballs were signed by either a Mariners player or coach. And the answer is ... The Mariners are 375-281 at Safeco Field and have the third-highest home-win total in the American League since July 15, 1999. On deck: Seattle hosts Baltimore in the second of three games Tuesday night, with righty Felix Hernandez (6-4, 3.66 ERA) opposing right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (4-3, 3.07). First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. PT.
Patrick Brown is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.