Ichiro's debut finally arrives

Ichiro's debut finally arrives

SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu loses some of the flexibility he had during the first eight games of the regular season on Wednesday night, but he doesn't mind it a bit.

"We're happy to have him back," the first-year skipper said of the pending return of right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

A season without Ichiro should end at 7:10 p.m. PT on Wednesday when left-hander Jarrod Washburn throws the first pitch in the second game of a three-game series against the Angels.

The eight games Ichiro will have missed are the most in any one season since he joined the Mariners prior to the 2001 campaign. His regular-season debut was delayed because of a bleeding ulcer, which put him on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his career.

Ichiro's return means Wakamatsu must find another spot in the lineup for Endy Chavez, who has been very Ichiro-like as the leadoff hitter. The left-handed batter had at least one hit in each of the eight games and played a huge role in the Mariners getting off to such a good start.

But Ichiro is perhaps the best leadoff hitter in the game, and that's where he will be placed in the lineup against the Angels.

There will be a special guest at Wednesday night's game, watching each of Ichiro's at-bat closely: Isao Harimoto, the current all-time hits leader among Japanese players with 3,085.

The 68-year-old traveled from Japan to Seattle to watch his record fall. Ichiro needs three hits to eclipse the mark Harimoto has held since he retired in 1981.

Harimoto played for the Toei Flyers, Tokyo Giants and Lotte Orions and was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.

While most of the attention is on Ichiro's regular-season debut, Washburn goes after his second consecutive win. He was superb in his first start of the season, blanking the Twins over eight innings at the Metrodome.

A sinker that he worked on during Spring Training was effective indoors and should be even better outdoors.

Pitching matchup
SEA: LHP Jarrod Washburn (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Washburn makes his first home start of the season on the heels of one of his best outings anywhere in a Mariners uniform. He held the Twins to five singles and a walk over eight innings and didn't allow of any them to reach scoring position until the eighth. He was efficient with his pitches, throwing just 96, and used an improved sinker to get key outs.

LAA: RHP Jered Weaver (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Weaver had one of the most memorable outings of his young career on Friday when he allowed just one unearned run against the Red Sox in the Angels' first game since the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart. Weaver showed excellent poise despite the loss of one of his best friends, who was supposed to become his roommate on Sunday. Weaver honored his fallen teammate by striking out eight batters and allowing just four hits against the mighty Red Sox lineup. Weaver is 6-2 with a 5.07 ERA against Seattle in his career.

Endy Chavez is just the eighth player in franchise history to begin the season with at least an eight-game hitting streak. Former second baseman Joey Cora is the all-time leader with a 16-game hitting streak coming out of the gate in 1998. Gorman Thomas hit in nine straight to start the '86 season. David Segui ('98), Ken Griffey Jr. ('97) and Dave Henderson ('83) had eight-game hitting streaks. ... If the first week is any indication, the Mariners will play a lot of close games this season. Four of their first seven games were decided by one run and one by two runs.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• 710 ESPN

Up next
• Thursday: Mariners (Ryan Rowland-Smith, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Angels (Joe Saunders, 1-1, 2.63), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Friday: Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 1-0, 4.15) vs. Tigers (Justin Verlander, 0-1, 9.35), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Mariners (Erik Bedard, 1-0, 2.03) vs. Tigers (Edwin Jackson, 0-0, 3.38), 6:10 p.m. PT

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.