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Mariners notebook: Day 1 of Ichiro’s return looks very familiar

PEORIA, Ariz. – Ichiro made his first appearance in the Mariners clubhouse Thursday morning after being given the rest of the Wednesday off after his press conference. With the travel he has had in the last few weeks, manager Scott Servais thought it would be a good idea to give Ichiro a day to get adjusted before joining the team for workouts.

While Ichiro has been a bit late to arrive to each day in camp in the past, his first day back required an earlier start as there were pictures for the big board to be taken, boxes at his locker that had to be emptied and of course people to check in with. After that, things started to look pretty familiar with Ichiro back with the Mariners.

‘You are going to play’ is Servais’ message to Ichiro

There were of course welcomes from his teammates. A raucous greeting from Robinson Cano, a hug from Kyle Seager and a handshake from Nick Vincent. When Dee Gordon arrived, Ichiro went to his locker and the two former Marlins teammates got right to shop talk. Ichiro wanted to see what glove Gordon was using in the outfield.

Gordon is clearly thrilled share a clubhouse with Ichiro again, as well as an outfield.

“I already had a great relationship with him beforehand and I respected the guy beforehand,” Gordon said. “I pick his brain every day. I think he is pretty much used to me bothering him.”

So how did that relationship develop? What initially drew him to Ichiro?

“He’s skinny and he can hit,” Gordon said with a laugh, perhaps not quite believing the question had to be asked. “We’re the same guy. That’s it.”

Following the daily team meeting, Ichiro headed out to the field with the rest of the Mariners. Along the fence of the main field, about 40 members of the Japanese media waited to record the moment. Teammates who entered the field ahead of Ichiro took in the scene; some like Mike Leake had fun with it, acknowledging the cameras with waves. Nelson Cruz doffed his cap as he walked through the aisle of cameras. Others who had not seen such a scene before laughed and shook their heads.

The scene was familiar for Ichiro, who didn’t break stride as he made the walk from the back door of the clubhouse to the field. It was time to get to work.

Ichiro went through stretches and warmups, played catch with Gordon, participated in fielding drills then joined his hitting group, which included Mitch Haniger and Daniel Vogelbach. While he didn’t square up much in his first two rounds of batting practice, he hit his stride as it progressed. One round to left field, one up the middle, the final to right. After that it was shagging in the outfield and then his day was done.

It will be at least a few more days until Ichiro enters games. On Thursday night against the Giants, he will watch.

Lineup!

Guillermo Heredia, LF
Andrew Romine, 2B
Kyle Seager, 3B
Mike Zunino, C
Mike Ford, 1B
Mike Marjama, C
Taylor Motter, SS
John Andreoli, RF
Braden Bishop, CF

Rob Whalen, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: Ryan Cook, Edwin Diaz, Sam Moll, Juan Nicasio and Max Povse.

Notes

• Guillermo Heredia, who has been DHing for almost a week now, will make his first start in the field since surgery.

• Mitch Haniger (hand) is expected to make his Cactus League debut this weekend. Before that he is expected to hit in a sim game thrown by Nick Vincent either Friday or Saturday. Ichiro will most likely get at-bats in that game as well.

• It turns out relief pitcher Tony Zych is nowhere near entering games. “He’s seeing a couple of different doctors, trying to come up with a plan of action,” answered Servais when asked about the reliever. “He has had discomfort in his shoulder and been shut down.”

• Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis returned to the field for workouts after being sidelined with a hamstring strain. Servais is hoping to get him back into games next week.

Mike Salk’s observations from Mariners spring training

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