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Mariners’ manager Scott Servais: ‘Ichiro can help us win’

Ichiro Suzuki, now 44, last suited up for the Mariners over five years ago. (AP)

Mariners manager Scott Servais joined Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle Wednesday morning, just minutes after the team announced it had signed team legend and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki.

“Ichiro is in the house today,” Servais said from Mariners spring training in Peoria, Ariz. “Hopefully we’ll see him out running around on the field. Give him a few days to get his legs underneath him and take some (batting practice), and get him into a game here maybe this weekend some time.”

Drayer: Mariners excited to welcome Ichiro back into the clubhouse

Ichiro, 44, last played for the Mariners in 2012, when he was traded midseason to the Yankees. Five years later, he still holds the franchise record for batting average (.322), hits (2,533) and stolen bases (438), and remains one of the most celebrated players in Mariners history.

For Servais, Ichiro’s significance represents an exciting coaching opportunity as well.

“The one year I was a scout for Jerry (Dipoto), in the scouting world you use the 20 to 80 scale,” Servais said. “And I did reports on like 750 players that one year. The Mariners were one of the organizations I was covering. I put two 80s. One of them was Ichiro, and the other one was a 19-year-old right hander in Tacoma named Felix Hernandez. And now I get to manage them both.

“It’s real exciting to bring him back in the fold. Coming back to Seattle, he’s an icon. He did so much for the organization and the city… I think he can help us win, and that’s why we brought him in. I think the fan base will be excited, our players will be excited, but at the end of the day it’s about winning. And I think he can help us win. So we’ll give him a shot and see what happens.”

Ichiro adds depth to a Seattle outfield that will be without left fielder Ben Gamel for four to six weeks.

In his first tenure in Seattle, Ichiro served as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter. However, Servais said that the veteran will hit near the bottom of the lineup when he plays in his return to the team.

“He’s going to play, there’s no doubt about it. Is he gonna play six, seven days a week? No, he’s not. I think we need to be smart there. He probably plays four, five times a week something like that, depending on the matchups and the schedule.

“He’ll hit at the bottom of our lineup; I think the top of our lineup’s probably well set. He’ll do what he does, get on base, play good defense. Hopefully maybe he’s hitting eighth, ninth in our lineup. You put him and (current leadoff hitter) Dee Gordon back to back, it could be fun. I know Ichiro’s speed numbers and what he does maybe isn’t what it used to be, but he’s still a threat. He’s got great instincts on the field, we saw that in his prime, and those instincts don’t go away, no matter how old you are. (He) understands the game and what it takes to win. Like I said, I think he’ll be a big attribute and help for us on the field, and I’m excited to see what he brings in our clubhouse.”

You can find the full interview with Servais in this podcast.

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