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Ichiro returning to right field

Ichiro returning to right field

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager John McLaren sat on the dugout bench before Wednesday's game against the Marlins, expanding on his explanation of why Ichiro Suzuki has been moved back to his former position in right field. He mentioned how he talked to Ichiro about it on the trip back from New York in late May.

"As soon as I said it, his face lit up," he said.

Just moments later, Ichiro himself -- who said after his first game there on Monday that "it feels like going to my yard" -- strolled into the dugout. McLaren paused for a second.

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"Right field, huh?" he asked his leadoff hitter.

Ichiro's face broke into a huge grin.

After spending this season and the 2007 season in center field, Ichiro is now back to his natural habitat in right. While the first two games have been rather uneventful, McLaren indicated that he's put plenty of thought into the matter.

"I actually thought about it last year," McLaren said. "There's something about [No.] 51 out there. It's where he belongs. I look back and I just close my eyes and there he is, just throwing the ball from the corner, climbing that wall out there, and him pointing to the fans. That's, to me, where he belongs."

The Ichiro switch and the promotion of catcher Jeff Clement -- who was in the starting lineup on Wednesday and will play consistently -- brought up the question of whether the two Monday moves just coincidentally came right after the firing of Bill Bavasi as general manager and the implementation of Lee Pelekoudas as the interim in the position.

"Nothing whatsoever has been dictated from up top," McLaren said. "Nothing. Never. Bill never did that. Lee hasn't done that. [Mariners CEO] Howard [Lincoln] and [club president] Chuck [Armstrong] haven't done that. They've left me alone, and I respect that, I appreciate that. But the Ichiro thing is something I've been thinking about for a long time. And I just went with it."

McLaren also indicated some other factors in the change on Wednesday outside of his opinion that he thinks the speedster is "the best right fielder in baseball for me."

One of those was the idea that Ichiro might be getting worn down.

"That was a little bit of the thought process. ... That's a big chore out there to cover that ground," McLaren said.

Ichiro is hitting just .293 this season, well below his career average.

But another issue stemmed from Ichiro's effect on the fielders to his right and left.

"He takes so many balls out there that I think the two other guys, whoever they are, from last year to today, they think that he's got everything," he said. "And sometimes they think that he's got it, well, he doesn't have it. So this way here it takes a little pressure off that. Everybody's got their turf out there to go get it."

Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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