PEORIA, Ariz. – Ichiro Suzuki is still hitting. No one has been able to stop that since he entered the major leagues eight years ago.
But the Mariners took steps Friday to protect their franchise cornerstone on the bases.
Ichiro had five hits in 10 at-bats in his second controlled game at Seattle’s minor league complex, part of his recovery from a bleeding stomach ulcer that has him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. The perennial All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder was removed for a pinch-runner each time he reached base.
He then declared he’s ready to play for real, though his stint on the 15-day DL stint runs until Wednesday.
“The organization told me not to run,” Ichiro said through his interpreter, Ken Barron. “It probably has more to do with expediting my recovery. I have no problem running – but that’s what they wanted me to do.”
The Mariners thought better of allowing Ichiro to run a day after he was thrown out at the plate on the back end of a double steal in his first rehab game. He chose not to slide on the play, believing the Mariners would not want him to.
Ichiro had a single, two doubles and two triples Friday, after going 7 for 10 Thursday while also as a designated hitter. He remains on track to return for Seattle’s second home game of the season Wednesday against the Los Angeles Angels.
Ichiro said he will play one more game today against the minor league pitchers in the Mariners’ extended spring training program. He then plans to return to Seattle instead of meeting the Mariners in Oakland to work out this weekend. The A’s and Mariners began a three-game series on Friday, with Seattle winning 5-4.
Ichiro had no difficulty running on his hits, reaching third standing on one triple.
“In my opinion, the time for seeing what happens is over,” Ichiro said. “I feel great.”
Last season, the 35-year-old tied Boston’s Dustin Pedroia for the major-league lead with 213 hits and set the modern record with his eighth consecutive 200-hit season. He said he feels “pretty much normal” after complaining of severe fatigue about a week ago.
Ichiro hit .273 to lead Japan to the 2009 World Baseball Classic title. He had the game-winning two-out, two-run single in a 5-3, 10-inning victory over Korea in the championship game on March 24.
The Mariners said the ulcer had stopped bleeding by the time they placed him on the DL April 3, retroactive to March 31.
Ichiro said Thursday he is still disappointed the team forced him to miss the start of Seattle’s answer to its 101-loss season in 2008.
An ulcer is a relatively rare condition for an athlete.
“I heard it was caused by bacteria. Who knows the reason why my stomach was so weak that the bacteria had a chance to grow?” he said. “What I heard is that it possibly was stress-related – and (that) it possibly wasn’t.”
Ichiro curtailed his training for a few days after the diagnosis, per doctors’ orders, but said he has not had to modify his food consumption at all.
“My diet has been exactly the same the whole time,” he said.
Ichiro showed his ability to use all fields while hitting against five minor league pitchers Friday.
He tripled down the right field line and to the warning track in right-center field, doubled to left-center field and down the left-field line, and singled over the shortstop’s head.
“The more the better,” Ichiro said of his 20 at-bats in the last two days.
He has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove defender in all eight of his Mariners’ seasons. Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Keeler (1894-1901) is the only other major leaguer with eight straight 200-hit seasons.
Ichiro will miss at least 10 games this season after missing only 16 games in his eight Seattle seasons, when he never played fewer than 157 games.
Until this week, he had missed only three games in the previous five years.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.