PEORIA, Ariz. – Ichiro was just starting to find his timing at the plate on Friday afternoon on the backfields of the Mariners’ complex.
On a day when he and Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Ryon Healy were participating in minor-league games to rack up at-bats between the Advanced A and Low-A games and get comfortable at the plate, Ichiro was starting to look a little more like himself, notching a double and a single in back-to-back plate appearances after striking out in the first two times up.
But his fifth plate appearance would be his last of the day. Rangers lefty Brandon Mann, a Tacoma native and graduate of Mount Rainier High, let a 91 mph fastball get away from him. The ball ran up and in to Ichiro, who tried to duck out of the way. Instead, the ball struck him squarely in the back of the helmet, knocking him to the ground.
Team staff rushed on to the field to attend to Ichiro, while Mann crouched on the front of mound, visibly upset with what had transpired. As the group hovered around Ichiro on the ground, doing some preliminary tests, the future Hall of Famer could be heard laughing. Shortly after that, he was helped to his feet and escorted off the field and to the Mariners training room where he underwent more tests.
“He was joking was little,” Healy said. “I think he was okay.”
Ichiro was later sitting at his locker in the clubhouse and joked with Cano, Cruz and Healy when they returned from the minor league games. Ichiro first acted as if he didn’t know who they were and squinted at them, acting confused.
Cruz asked if he knew where he was at and Ichiro replied: “Dominica.”
The team later released a medical update from general manager Jerry Dipoto.
“He’s doing well,” Dipoto said. “He was removed the game, evaluated by our doctors here in Peoria and came out okay. He will be reassessed again tomorrow to determine his game availability.”
Meanwhile Cano (hamstring strain), Cruz (quad strain) and Healy (hand surgery) piled up at-bats on the day to try and prepare themselves for the season after missing games with their respective injuries.
Cruz blasted a pair of deep homers that drew gasps from the fans and players watching.
“It was good,” he said. “It helps more than anything. You don’t have to wait the next day to see another pitcher. The more pitches you see the better. It definitely helps. I feel good right now.”
Healy had four hits in seven at-bats, including a stinging double to right field and an opposite field homer.
“I feel like I’m still progressing day by day,” he said. “I feel like I’m having competitive at-bats, which is always good to have. I just have to build off them.”
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