Manager McLaren tweaks outfield, shifts Ichiro back to right

Updated: June 17, 2008, 1:53 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- With his team in huge trouble, Seattle Mariners manager John McLaren decided he's going to start tinkering. His first move: sliding Ichiro Suzuki back into right field.

Suzuki was back in his corner outfield spot for the first time since the end of the 2006 season on Monday night when the Mariners, with the worst record in baseball, opened a three-game series against the Florida Marlins.

"It feels like going to my yard," Suzuki said through a translator after Seattle's 6-1 loss on Monday night. "They came to me about it and said, 'Let's do this for the future.'"

Suzuki switched to center field last year when the Mariners signed Jose Guillen as a free agent. Suzuki played 155 games in center last season and all 69 this year before Monday night.

This won't be a one-night stand for Suzuki. McLaren said he's been considering the move for some time, and Suzuki is on board for whatever changes McLaren wants to make.

"I've been thinking about it for over a month. It's nothing against Ichiro in center field, of course. I just think he's a great right fielder and I want to see his zest and smile and everything going," McLaren said. "What I remember is just spectacular things and I want to try that. I'm not sure it's going to work or make any difference whatsoever, but I'm going to try it."

Suzuki played center field occasionally for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, but was specifically a right fielder when he came to Seattle in 2001, the year he was the AL MVP. Back then, he had the luxury of slick-fielding Mike Cameron in center, but when a gap developed after Cameron left, Suzuki moved to center and the Mariners signed Guillen to play right.

With Guillen gone after one season, the Mariners have used five different right fielders this season: Brad Wilkerson, Wladimir Balentien, Willie Bloomquist, Mike Morse and Jeremy Reed. Bloomquist got the start in center on Monday with Reed likely to share time.

Before the game, McLaren said Balentien would get a tryout during batting practice to see if he can play center as well. It was pretty short, as Balentien was optioned back to Triple-A Tacoma after Monday's game and catcher Jeff Clement was called up.

"When I close my eyes and think of Ichiro, I think of [No.] 51 in right field," McLaren said.

McLaren has also thought of moving Suzuki in the batting order, but has not figured out who would take his spot leading off. Suzuki is hitting .293 with three homers, 18 RBIs and 30 stolen bases this season.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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