Healthy Figgins primed for new role

Healthy Figgins primed for new role

Healthy Figgins primed for new role
PEORIA, Ariz. -- With Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners' new No. 3 hitter, doing his famous stretching exercises behind him on the clubhouse floor on Saturday, Chone Figgins was talking about a return "home" to the leadoff role he filled so capably with the Angels before moving north, with disappointing results, following the 2009 season.

"Tough act to follow, right?" a grinning Figgins said, referring to assuming Ichiro's spot atop the lineup. "I feel good leading off, because it's what I've always done. But more important is the fact that I'm healthy. The last 10 games, I've been feeling much better.

"I missed most of last season, and when I was out there, I was trying to play through a labrum [strain] in my right hip. I was trying to plant [in the batter's box], be aggressive like I've always been, but it just wasn't there."

Figgins played third base on Opening Day in Japan against the Athletics, moving to left field in the second game after Mike Carp injured his shoulder diving for a ball.

Blessed with a powerful arm for a man his size, Figgins always has enjoyed the outfield and will be content to go back to his early role with the Angels as an all-purpose guy. "Third, short, second, outfield ... whatever they need," he said.

Figgins has not been himself in Seattle, but he's determined to show critics he still has all the skills that made him one of the American League's most versatile and explosive players for six years.

"I'm really looking forward to this season, now that I'm feeling good again," he said. "It'll be fun to see what we can do with [Dustin] Ackley and Ichiro hitting second and third. Both those guys can drive the ball. We should give the young guys in the middle third a lot of RBI opportunities."