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Ichiro officially out of Mariners’ leadoff spot

PEORIA, Ariz. – The lineup change Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge hinted at during the offseason is going to become permanent.

It won’t be Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the Mariners batting order to begin the 2012 season.

Wedge announced Tuesday that he will move Ichiro from his traditional leadoff spot down to No. 3 in the Mariners’ batting order. It’s not a simple spring training experiment. Wedge is set to make Ichiro’s move permanent and he will figure out who is Seattle’s best option to take over in the leadoff role.

“Bottom line, it’s for us to have the best lineup 1 through 9 out there,” Wedge said. “I want our lineup to be extended. I think our best opportunity is for Ichiro to be hitting third for us.”

It’ll be the first time in his career that Ichiro will be somewhere permanently other than the leadoff spot. He’s had only a handful of games at other spots in the lineup through his 11-year career in Seattle. He’s coming off the worst year of his career in the U.S., hitting .272, the first time he’s failed to hit at least .300.

The first option to replace Ichiro will be Chone Figgins, although Wedge said he’s not set on his Nos. 1 and 2. Figgins has struggled since coming over from the Los Angeles Angels and signing a $36 million, four-year deal. After thriving in the leadoff spot with the Angels, Figgins has hit just .236 in his two seasons in Seattle, including .188 in an injury-shortened 2011 season.

Figgins is likely to be the Mariners’ third baseman when the season begins.

“I’m confident Figgins can get back to his old self as a leadoff hitter,” Wedge said. “That’s when he was the Figgins that produced, that got on base, that scored runs, that was a pain for opposing teams when he did lead off for Anaheim.”