SEATTLE -- Yeah, it's early. Two weeks into a six-month season, massive conclusions should not be drawn. But early returns on manager Eric Wedge's move of Ichiro Suzuki to the No. 3 spot in the Mariners batting order have been positive to this point, which is certainly encouraging for an offense in need of production.
Heading into Thursday's series finale with the Indians, Ichiro was leading the Mariners in RBIs with seven and his slugging percentage of .415 is well above his .335 of last year.
The 38-year-old right fielder hit his first home run of the season in Wednesday's 4-1 victory. And while he's not expected to blast a bunch of long balls, it never hurts to see your No. 3 hitter displaying some pop.
Wedge said all spring that he wanted Ichiro to define the No. 3 role in his own way and he's pleased how that's developed so far.
"I feel like that's exactly what he's doing and he's going to continue to get better," Wedge said. "He's off to a decent start, he looks comfortable in that role, he's produced in that role and I think he's only going to get better. There are so many balls he's hit hard that have been outs and other pitches that he's just missed. I like what I'm seeing."
For his part, Ichiro refuses to get caught up in any conversation about his new position. Asked if he's getting used to being in the No. 3 spot, he offered no clues.
"I don't know," he said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "I'm just doing my role and that's all I can think of."
Wedge said Ichiro definitely seems to be hitting the ball with more authority.
"I do feel he's trying to drive it more," Wedge said. "I see him being a bit more aggressive at times and being more selective at times. That's the best of both worlds."
Ichiro now has 96 home runs in his 12-year Major League career, needing four more to become the 12th player in franchise history with 100 or more. His career high for a season was 15 in 2005.