By Brady Henderson
Eric Wedge sounds like he is prepared to move Ichiro out of the leadoff spot he has occupied for 11 seasons.
The Mariners manager told 710 ESPN Seattle Wednesday said there is a “good possibility” that Ichiro will hit elsewhere in the lineup in 2012.
“If you had to put a gun to my head right now I’d probably be leaning in that direction, but I’m not going to just close myself off until spring training,” Wedge said while speaking with Jim Moore and Mike Salk from the Sports Star of the Year awards banquet.
Ichiro is coming off the worst season of his 11-year MLB career. The 38-year-old right fielder hit .272, marking the first time he posted a batting average below .300. He also failed to reach 200 hits, make the All-Star team and win a Gold Glove for the first time in his career. His down season didn’t help an offense that ranked last in all of baseball in runs scored.
Wedge told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer in September that he considered moving Ichiro out of the leadoff spot last season, adding: “He was open to it at that time but as we saw it through the next couple of days and seeing the domino effect it could have, I felt it was best to leave it alone.”
Wedge said Wednesday that he hasn’t made up his mind and added that he plans to speak with several Mariners, including Ichiro, in spring training to gauge their viability as potential leadoff hitters.
“I’ve got a vision in mind in regard to what I want to see happen,” he said. “Obviously I’ve got to work off of Ichiro a little bit, but ultimately I’m going to do what I think is best to give us a chance to score runs because it’s just too important for us to make a huge step for us this year offensively.”
Wedge was asked what he’d like to see from his leadoff hitter.
“I want him to get on base, I want him to see pitches, I want him to help the number two hole hitter, the number three hole hitter, the four hole hitter,” he said, adding that he also values speed and doesn’t want to see quick outs.
“So we’ll see. Ichiro is very unique, but I’ve been very frank with him and very clear in regard to what I’m looking to do, so we’ll see.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson