Wedge 'not sure' if Ichiro will still lead off

Wedge 'not sure' if Ichiro will still lead off

Wedge 'not sure' if Ichiro will still lead off
DALLAS -- Mariners manager Eric Wedge said he's had two conversations with Ichiro Suzuki this offseason, including one just the other day to discuss his role next season.

Wedge indicated on Tuesday in his meeting with the media at the Winter Meetings that Ichiro's role could indeed be changing after 11 seasons almost exclusively as the club's leadoff hitter.

"I'm still not sure where I'm going to hit him in the order, and I want him to understand that," Wedge said. "Because ultimately I'm going to do what is best for our club. I'm going to put out the best nine in the order I see fit to score as many runs as we can.

"If I feel like that is him leading off, then that's what we're going to do. If I feel like that's him hitting in the three-hole, then that's what I'm going to do. If it's him hitting somewhere else, then that's what I'm going to do."

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Wedge said that based on a conversation he had with Ichiro last year, the 38-year-old will be open to any change.

"He told me last year in the middle of the season that he wants to do whatever is best for the ballclub and he wants me to do whatever I feel is best for the ballclub," Wedge said. "I take him at his word, and that's what I'm going to do. He's been tremendous -- he's been communicative with me, and I appreciate that. We're looking to build a winner and championship club, here and that's my entire focus."

Ichiro hit .272 last season and finished with 182 hits, marking the first time in 11 Major League seasons that he didn't bat .300, reach 200 hits or earn either an All-Star berth or an American League Gold Glove Award.

"Last year was tough because it wasn't a prototypical year for him," Wedge said. "I haven't been around him in a prototypical year. I'm hoping to be around him this year in a prototypical year.

"He's a guy that can be aggressive at times, and he can be passive at times. He has a mindset and goes up there and sticks to it. He's a tough one to assess because it's such a unique style. It's very rare, and that's why he's such a special player. He's a future Hall of Famer, there's no doubt in my mind.

"But right now, he's here to help us win ballgames, as the other 24 are, and that's what we're going to move forward with."