MINNEAPOLIS -- The results of the blood test Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had on Wednesday morning were encouraging, and for the first time in more than two weeks, he will get some game action on Thursday afternoon. "I don't think he's at 100 percent yet, but he's close," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said prior to Wednesday night's game against the Twins. "Everything is improving and we will plan on him being the designated hitter in [an extended spring training] game tomorrow. "He'll play in another game two days after that and we'll re-evaluate at that point."
Ichiro started his ninth Major League season on the 15-day disabled list, the first time in his career that he missed more than five games in any one season. He is battling the effects of a bleeding ulcer and is eligible to come off the DL next Wednesday. He has remained in Arizona during his recuperation and might remain there through this weekend. It hasn't been decided if he would meet the team in Oakland during a three-game series against the Athletics or just fly from Phoenix to Seattle on Sunday and go through Monday afternoon's workout at Safeco Field. The Mariners play their home opener on Tuesday afternoon against the Angels. "Until he gets into a game, he's running the bases and does that over time, instead of jumping the gun, I think it's smarter to try to evaluate on how he's doing," Wakamatsu said. "Right now, everything seems to be going great." The game plan for Thursday's game is for Ichiro to get at least four at-bats. "We'll see how he feels," Wakamatsu said, "but he could get up to as many as 10 at-bats. He can lead off every inning if he wants." Ichiro has gradually increased his work load the past few days and Wakamatsu has received daily updates. "He had a 75-pitch batting practice today and hit 20 home runs," the manager said. There had been some discussions about Ichiro playing some games with Triple-A Tacoma in Sacramento, but that probably won't happen. The Rainiers open the Pacific Coast League season on Thursday night against the Athletics' Triple-A farm team. The Mariners also received good medical news on right-hander Felix Hernandez. His right ankle, which he twisted in the first inning of Monday night's regular season opener, has improved so much that he was able to make his regular bullpen session on Wednesday. His next start is scheduled for Saturday against the Athletics. "We're monitoring his progress, but he says his ankle feels good," Wakamatsu said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.